Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Post-Christmas Wrap-Up

My little vacation is starting to wind down, and I'm starting to see myself back at work soon, which might not be the greatest thing but I'm starting to be ready.

Some Christmas Loot: I got a new compass, some GPS bike mounts and an ANT wireless receiver that attaches to an ipod (from my uncle), a sweater and a few knick-knacks from my mom, new panniers from Anne, and the rest of my presents were books:

Kraken by China MiƩville
A Guide To "The Crying of Lot 49" by J. Kerry Grant
A Guide to "V" by J. Kerry Grant
Positively 4th Street by David Hajdu
Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks and Big Pharma Flacks by Ben Goldacre
The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman
Old Man Drinks: Recipes, Advice, and Barstool Wisdom by Robert Schnackenberg
Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will by David Foster Wallace

Basically I am reading all of them at the same time, but Confederates in the Attic really grabbed me and I'm almost done -- I would have finished if Kraken didn't grab me harder, like Dragon-Tattoo-hard, and take over my reading...

In Other Lists: I've still been sick, recovering too slowly for my tastes -- especially for someone who's supposed to be on vacation! -- but I did manage to go on a couple of towpath rides, a morning ski session at Blue, a Sals ride, some cross-country skiing along the towpath, and a bit of nightlife.

Today I'll hit the trails, then spend the day reading. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fight Or Flight, Or Something Better

Well, here I am, listening to "Safe as Milk" in memory of Captain Beefheart, waiting for my leftover pizza to warm up. We (me, Anne & Emmi) hit Kula Yoga in Nazareth last night, to take a class taught by our friend Scott. Really cool, and I think we all found it fairly strenuous -- I'm not sure what Emmi's situation is, but Anne and I are somewhat experienced yoga practitioners who have, er, not practiced in a while... (We went for pizza with Scott afterward.)

I think that may be part of my latest problems, by the way - not the pizza, the lack of yoga. The body has like two basic modes, one calm and one based on "fight or flight," and yoga is at least partly an attempt to get body & mind into the calm mode. My recent health issues -- one recent cold does not a trend or tendency make, but still there's that breathing thing, and the skin thing, and my blood pressure was up at the doctor's office though it might have been the decongestants... -- seem to fall in the "caused by stress" category, and have trended upward as my yoga practice has waned.

I know my personality suffers if I skip too much yoga (like now), and here's a sign that maybe my health is suffering too. Better find a way again, and make time for yoga.

Meantime, I tried a towpath ride yesterday. I've been so sick lately that I haven't missed being outside, and had no desire to do anything strenuous, so I took it as a good sign that I at least wanted to go riding yesterday. When I got out there though, my fur-lined lungs had other ideas and I only rode for about 20 minutes. Anne should be home soon, and we'll try another ride in a bit. The way it usually works, by the time I can really ride again I should be jonesing for activity.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

When I Was Young I Was The King Of Carrot Flowers

Morning weigh-in: 180.5#, 14.5% BF
Speaking of Neutral Milk Hotel, I once did see a bunch of two-headed boys in jars, in some low-rent museum in Russia. (I sang along with "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" on the way into work this morning.) I'm feeling much better, thank youvery much; I had a good night's sleep last night, and I think the meds, especially the antibiotics, are doing their job.
What Else I Did On My Day Off: I got a few emails from Amazon saying my recent orders didn't process, because my credit card wasn't authorizing. Uh oh... I thought I forgot to pay a bill or something, but I checked online and all was well, so I called them. Turns out, some unknown entity tried to process a $0.01 transaction over the Internet using my card (and an incorrect expiration date), and the credit card company blocked it, locked my account, and tried to notify me via my old land line. Oops! Better update my contact info... Everything should be OK now, I'm happy, Amazon's happy, and I am now up to my ears in fraud protection add-ons.
Emmi's home, probably at her dad's now but we'll see her tonight, and Ben -- Happy Birthday, Ben! -- should also be back soon. There's snow on the ground, it must be Christmas Time.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Amoxocillin, Garliczilla

Morning weigh-in: 180#, 15.5% BF
Well, it's an ill wind that doesn't at least knock a few pounds off the scale...
I am officially sick, took off yesterday and went to the doctor. She gave me antibiotics, an asthma inhaler (sigh, but I do need it) and a couple of homeopathic remedies and food supplements -- ie some pills that make me stink of garlic -- as well as some advice for relieving the symptoms. So, instead of doing the Two Brew Tuesday thing, I spent last night alternating between glasses of water and cups of fresh ginger tea, waiting for the antibiotics to kick in. I feel better today, but then I always feel better during the day, and last night was pretty rough eve with my new regimen, which admittedly didn't start until almost 8:00 PM.
I yesterday playing with the computer again (Skype works fine now, as does Ekiga, though I have no one to call with either one), waiting for the doctor, reading a bit, and napping, and then I followed all that with an early bedtime. Tonight I'll be crashing early again, I can tell. Hopefully I'll feel better by the weekend...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Apres Le Deluge

Morning weigh-in: 182#, 14.5% BF
I have a pretty decent head cold, with sinus and chest issues, probably the first one for this year. (Anne has been fighting a similar cold, but it seems to have lodged in her ears, which is its own brand of not-fun.) Daytime is reasonably OK -- except I have no wind, and no physical energy -- and every day I think I've turned the corner, but every night it's the same all-night coughing fit. Needless to say, sleeping has been difficult.
Woke up to the sound of rain, so I spent most of yesterday watching movies, playing with the computer, or reading in bed -- the rest of the day I just wasted...
Reading: I just finished two books: Bike Snob by uh, the Bike Snob, and Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball. I probably wouldn't have thought of this if I hadn't read them together, but in some ways they're like two sides of the same coin, two different views of recent trends. I'm not sure everyone would agree with me on that, even if they both mention hipsters and New York life, and both get into the thing itself rather than the trend of the thing, but they had one other thing in common: they were both very good.
Watching: Saw Amadeus again, haven't seen it in years. Great movie, but I think this falls somewhere on the "power of narrative" side of things, fitting Mozart and his circle into some kind of Procrustean "tortured genius and the little men who held him back" trope. (I looked up both Mozart and Salieri the other day, and just started counting the misrepresentations.) We also watched The Glory Of My Father last night, which was recommended by a friend but -- sorry Lori! -- just didn't seem to be able to engage either of us. Books won this weekend's cage match.
Computing: My mom threw a birthday party for my brother Chris yesterday. Neither of us were up for the trip though, so I called and begged off, but happened to mention that "maybe we could Skype later." This sounded agreeable to Mom, so later in the day, I fired up Skype and -- found it didn't work. Somehow over the past few upgrades/changes/whatever I'd broken it; worse, I managed to knock out my laptop's webcam. I spent a good portion of last night -- no point in sleeping if you can't lay down without drowning -- messing around, Googling device driver issues and reinstalling software; I knocked out my sound and got it back, and I did get the webcam to work again, but Skype still eludes me.
Exercising: Nope, except a towpath ride on Saturday with Anne. Almost two hours to go sixteen miles, and we were both exhausted long before it was over. I was thinking of hitting the gym tonight, but a rest day is a better idea so I'll probably do some chores around the house, maybe wrestle the computer again.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Had the day off, blowing through some vacation time, use-it-or-lose-it mode before the end of the year. Unfortunately I spent the day sick: am right on the cusp of coming down with a cold, that was what all that asthma etc really was, the start of whatever it was that came to a head yesterday. Tons of Emergen-C with vitamin D, and Mucinex-D, and I should be ok in a couple of days but in the meantime I've been totally wiped out. Anne was fighting something the other day, and may be about to get what I have -- she had a rough night. Luckily, we did pretty much nothing all day. (We did get out for a short ride though, just over to the Wegman's for groceries. Only ride of the week for me.)

The Boy Who Kicked Over The Hornet's Nest: All this Julian Assange Swedish eye-spy WikiLeaks brew-ha-ha reminds me of... something...

Barely Ahead Of My Time: Looks like Pychon's Inherent Vice might be made into a movie. Good thing I just finished it.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Squaring The Circle

Morning weigh-in: 182.5#, 14% BF
So it's been another week between posts; it seems my logorrhea well has run dry...
Things here are back to normal: Thanksgiving is over, Ben and Emmi (and their friends) are back at school, and we didn't really have all that much planned for this past weekend. (Anne had a few things on her plate but I got to waste the time as stupidly as I could figure how -- playing with the computer.) But last weekend...
Thanksgiving Shenanigans: Emmi & Ben had Thanksgiving dinner with their dad's family, and since Friday was Anne's big family get together -- and my family was scattered for the holiday -- we had steak. Awesome! Anne spent the day deboning the poultry for Saturday's turducken party, and cut her finger working on the last bone of the last bird. Not so awesome... We spent Friday in Jim Thorpe doing the Thanksgiving thing, then Saturday we did the annual Turkey Trot 5k in the morning (brrrr!) and spent the day preparing for the Turducken Party, which was a real blowout, a major success.
Sunday after the party I got up a bit late, but I did get down to Montgomeryville, and finally got Anne's new car stereo installed, then spent the afternoon hiking Sals with Dave.
I haven't been doing too much riding lately -- going out tonight, but still. I did a towpath ride with Doug on Monday, and a short road ride Friday, and basically that's it since the asthma incident. I got out again yesterday for another Sals hike, another mapping expedition, but other than that my only exercise lately has been at my new gym.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Celebrate This Dirty Life!

Yes it's that time of year again:

"It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

Sorry about the recent lack of posting. I've been super-busy at work the past few weeks, and home life has been pretty hectic as well. Next up is another long weekend...

Oh, the Embarrassment #1: My droid has been having problems recently with the headphone jack -- something I use at least twice every day -- and the problems were just getting worse and worse. I read online of a bunch of other people having the same problem, and when the jack finally died last week I went in to the Verizon store, ready for whatever battle was necessary to get my phone working again. The guy took it in the back and came out a minute later saying, "It's fixed. The connection was filled with hair and dirt and lint, and I sprayed it with compressed air to clean it out." Ewwww! -- but it works fine now. My phone spends a lot of time in my pocket, which might not be a good idea but I think it's common; I wonder if all those other droid jack problems have the same source.

Reading: I read a book excerpt in the US Airways in-flight magazine, and it was so good it prompted me to buy the book -- that was a first. The book is The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kiristin Kimball, the story about how she gave up the city for farm life. Pretty good so far, but I made the mistake of picking up The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, and now I can't put it down. I guess I'll finish them both eventually.

Oh, the Embarrassment #2: Anne's car stereo is crapping out, so I decided to get her a new one for her birthday (this was the same day I got my phone fixed). I went over to the nearby stereo store, the only one I know, and drove into their parking lot -- only to find they were out of business. I called Eric, who once worked there, and he said "So glad you noticed, it's been closed for about three years now!" On Eric's advice I got the stereo at a place in Montgomeryville, and they'll be installing it Sunday.

Listening: Many thanks for all the music advice. I downloaded maybe a half dozen albums, most notable so far being the latest from the New Pornographers and the Black Keys, and one by Rachid Taha that wasn't from this year but was new to me. Mucho recommendo!

A Quick GRASS HOWTO: I finally broke down and purchased a whole bunch of data from the Lehigh County GIS Bureau. It was $150 for the whole kitchen sink, but what I was really after were property boundaries, and I got them so it was worth it. The data is in ArcGIS "shapefile" format, but GRASS should be able to handle it so...

Fire up GRASS in my current map, from the menu: "File->Import vector map->Multiple formats using OGR" (ie the v.import.ogr command), and -- error: there is no location/projection data associated with the shapefiles that OGR can find. For each shapefile there's an associated *.PRJ file in the data, and inside the *.PRJ file is the projection data that I need, but how do I use that?

Here's how: use like before, pick a shapefile and import it, but check the button on the "Options" tab to create a new location for the shapefile. (That location will have no projection data associated with it.) Next you close GRASS and re-open it in the new location, then "Config->Manage projections->Config->Manage projections" (ie the g.proj command), on the "Input" tab choose the PRJ file as the "ASCII file containing a WKT projection description" and on the "Create/Edit" tab check the button to create new projection files. Press "Run" and you should be good -- the shapefile is no in its own location wiht the proper projection information. That's one way to do it!

UPDATE: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Broccoli At Breakfast

Well, here I am at Kripalu, and I may be the only person in history to have gained weight here... One thing I was worried about is whether there would be food here for me, but it turns out that the food is awesome, and there's plenty that I can eat. All very healthy stuff too, it reminded me of eating at home -- except, for some reason, I've never had steamed veggies at breakfast before, not even leftovers, and I've been chowing down on them (among many other things) here every morning.

Other than that, I can't say that I've really immersed myself into the scene here. We arrived Friday afternoon (after riding the nearby trails), ate dinner, and I went to a seminar on "positional therapy" while Anne went to her workshop; I took an early morning yoga class yesterday, then rode all day and hit the sauna; and today we leave, but I will hit the gym they have, and maybe the sauna, while Anne's in her final class. I'm glad I did that yoga class, going to Kripalu and not doing any yoga would be hard to explain back home... The place is yoga-centric, not surprising since it is in fact a yoga-as-religion retreat, but even if yoga were taken out of the picture, looking at the place as, say, a spa, I've hardly dipped my feet into the amenities, though I do think Anne is getting her money's worth from that class. (She actually had homework.)

Our room is in a building called "the annex," very cool, euro and eco at the same time, all concrete and blond wood. Wireless, funky bathroom, really neat decor. There's saunas and whirlpools, a weight room, and body work (i.e. massage) of all kinds, and, though it seems experimental and against their better judgment, there's a coffee shop, which is where I am now. My experience of yoga-as-nice-start-to-a-weekend-morning usually includes post-yoga cafe downtime, and there at the coffee shop I would usually see at least a few of my classmates; judging by the sudden morning crush, that sort of demographic is well-represented here. (A-and speaking of demographics: there's probably 10 women for every guy here, at least among the guests -- it sounds like paradise, but I do get that "onion in a petunia patch" feeling of being out of place. Being here gives me a good idea of what it might be like as a girl into mountain biking.)

My biggest block here, in terms of my not getting to enjoy all the facilities and classes available here, is the same problem I have with hiking: whenever it's a good day for a hike it's a better day for a bike ride, and I'd usually rather be biking. (Tough life, huh?) I might have a unique opportunity with this trip to Kripalu, even though I'm pretty sure I'll be coming back, but that also goes for the local trails -- the weather and trail conditions are probably as good as they get, and it's just too nice to not be outside. I think it's time for a hike...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Quick Music Troll, er, Poll

I was just wondering what other people think is the best album released this year.
I'd pretty much agree with anyone who gives top honors to Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, as I think it's the best that I've I heard so far (based strictly on the merits), but my vote goes to Titus Andronicus's The Monitor, for its more personal resonances -- the Civil War, New Jersey, moving to Boston and moving back, Billy Bragg...
The floor's open. Anybody? Bueller?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

You Know Who Else Came Home To Roost? Hitler, That's Who!

The crows didn't bring it with them I'm sure, but it all did come back at the same time: my skin is raw and itchy again, and to top it off my ankle started to hurt the other day... I suspect that both are related to flying around (sitting in cramped quarters for hours), and clambering around inside boilers (and being exposed to whatever is in there, like itchy insulation etc), which is what the rest of last week looked like.

Pretty good trip though, business- and engineering-wise it worked out fine, and the traveling was uneventful except for a baggage snafu right at the end -- but they delivered my bag the next day, on the porch by about 8:00 AM.

This Friday I had off, and we slept in (as best we could, with baggage guys knocking on the door), then just hung out at home. This was our first weekend with (mostly) nothing on the agenda, so aside from some chores & errands our time was our own. Anne got some apple butter started, I got a pot roast going, and we bottled the yarrow beer (2 gallons, about 20 bottles) & kegged the porter (5 gallons). We went to Brew Works after dinner, but we only stayed for one; on the way home was when my ankle started hurting -- Anne noticed I was limping too.

Saturday was more of the same, though our kitchen scene this time was us getting ready for a dinner party. We started the day with a run, which quickly devolved into a walk as my ankle started complaining, did some stuff around the house, and then got things ready for dinner -- we had Scott S over, plus Mark & Melinda, some old friends of Anne & Scott who'd relocated back into the area, and their kids -- the bunch of them were all neighbors together, once upon a time in Nazareth. Salad, squash soup, spicy sesame noodles (spaghetti for the kids), bread and apple butter, and a whole bunch of desserts. Very fun.

Today Anne and I went on a nice long road ride, which felt a lot longer because it was a breezy (OK, windy) day. No ankle problems, thank goodness. It was beautiful out despite the wind: a perfect, brisk, sunny fall day.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Aggro World

Morning weigh-in: 181.5#, 13.5% BF

Writing this in Lehigh Valley International Airport...

Went out riding the towpath last night with Anne. A mellow ride, and we were going to keep it relatively short because the weather was so cold -- 40 degrees, maybe a bit less, in a few months we'll be out in shorts if it gets up to 40 but we were freezing at first -- but as we got into the groove and warmed up a little we decided to push our turnaround a little further down the trail. Unfortunately, when we got a little past Freemansburg we started hearing gunshots across the river.  (There's a gun range over there somewhere, but this wasn't that.) We didn't feel like getting popped by the local yahoos, discretion was the better part of valor so we turned around, cut our ride short anyway. Still, about 12 miles in just about an hour, not bad for a Monday night, and the first requiring both lights and riding tights... Lots of critters out and about, besides us and the yahoos: we saw a bunch of deer, one very decrepit-looking fisherman, and a mangy skunk that I almost ran into before we spotted it.

This past weekend was the big Halloween blow-out, though we wimped out on a few events: I got home Friday totally whooped, and we (me, Anne, Deb, Donna) didn't feel like trying to catch up to the CAT Halloween ride (ride starts at 5:00? with a movie about sprawl? WTF?) so we blew it off in favor of feeding the Trick-or-Treaters and our usual Friday night at Brew works. Saw the usual crew there, as well as Doug & Lori who did do the ride and caught up with us afterwards. Lotsa fun with various halloween costume props, including some goofy teeth, and a rather pornographic version of fake nose & glasses, which turned out to be very popular.

Saturday we did some morning running around, then hooked up with the big VMB Halloween/Birthday ride, birthday because Jason's turning 30 in a few days so we had to celebrate. Great ride, there were probably about 30 people on the ride, some in costume, and there were the usual misadventures (mechanical breakdowns, crashes, some peeps getting lost) associated with a big group ride. Totally a fun stupid day in the woods.

That night the VMB festivities continued with a party at Greg's house. More crazy fun: two sixtels tapped, a fire going in the fire pit, and a whole bunch of crazy bikers. Anne and I came as an "Oktoberfest" style German couple, she as "Hansel" and me as a huge big-titted beer maid. (My costume's boobs were actually booze containers,  which we filled with beer and which unfortunately exploded from the carbonation on the drive over, spraying all over the inside of Anne's car.) It was a sight to see, but it was also uncomfortable (in more ways than one) so I took it off after we made our entrance.

We only stuck around for a few hours, eat, drink, dance, schmooze, then home relatively early. Sunday was Bethlehem's Halloween parade, preceded by a the first annual Halloween 5k. Anne went as a chicken, Donna & her friend ditto the  chicken thing (there were a surprising number of chickens running), I ran in my kilt, and Lori went as a cupcake. Great fun, and our time was 28:30, not bad for hungover and in costume...

How the other half lives: It was kind of surprising, to me anyway, the reaction I got with the beer maid costume: I got a lot of attention, which I expected, and a lot of laughs, but some of my friends became very aggressive at the sight of those tits, manhandling them and so on, and getting almost belligerent when I showed up a little later in my usual clothes. Very weird, and it was weirder still when I was walking around in my kilt, which sounds like I'd been feminized this weekend or something, but the kilt's pretty bad-ass -- Doug said "if that was any manlier it would have spikes," -- one old guy in the crowd started yelling to me "hey you're very brave!" He reminded me of like a dog or something, excited and not knowing whether it'll bite you, lick you or chase the stick... Boy named Sue, thought I'd have to get into a fight with an old man --the guy saw something outside his little world, and just had to force his way into it.

Anyway, I'm out of here for a few days, off to Texas (after voting, of course), back by the weekend. This coming weekend will be the first in a while without any running around. Plane's boarding soon, outta here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Once Burned, Twice Shy

Good time at the gym last night, I did a full body workout including legs. I didn't feel particularly strong or energetic, but still I fairly flew through the workout. The lower reps & higher weights are starting to pay off, and my strength seems to be coming back, though my fitness (despite the running) is still in the middle of its annual Fall meltdown. (Time to set up the trainer in the basement?)
I met Anne at Porters after that, grabbed dinner and BS'ed with a few friends we bumped into there. Ribeye steak sandwich, Founder's Breakfast Stout, some good conversation, and we were home by 11:30, not too bad.
More crows on the way in this morning, and like yesterday, another major backup on the highway -- this time I saw all the brake lights in the distance and got off at the next exit. Even if it took longer I didn't care,  I didn't feel like sitting in traffic again, and when I got to my usual exit I got a glimpse of the interstate looking like a parking lot, so I think my gamble paid off.
Tonight is the CAT Halloween ride.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Return Of The Son Of Corvus Redux

Today marks -- for me -- the official return of the crows to Bethlehem. They flock by the millions along the Lehigh, from about now through maybe January. I've been expecting them, and I'd heard from Deb and Anne that they were already back, and I even saw a few crows flying around yesterday, but it was on my drive in this morning that I saw (and heard) them in full force for the first time this year, in the trees along the riverbank. Just in time for Halloween!
Eldritch: It was foggy this morning, fairly creepy with the now-mostly-bare trees dripping in the dark, and the crows calling (almost) invisibly in the misty early morning, and there I was listening to The Hazards Of Love on the way in, with an image in my mind of waking in the night, and seeing your dead children, the ones you murdered, standing around your bed, singing.
What else: Got my kilt last night. Utilikilts "Workman" model, chocolate (ie brown) colorway. I put it on, it looked good and felt really comfortable, and I was tired so I blew off yoga and worked on the laptop in my new kilt. Did a little playing with my new winter project, some old work-related program involving FORTRAN, which is kind of painful but fun in a sort of archaeological way, and upgraded the system (again).
Doug and Lori came over later, and we adjusted the brakes on his new cyclocross bike. Cantilever brakes, they needed to be set toe-in, but the job wasn't nearly as difficult/frustrating as we were expecting, and we got to hang out for a while afterward with beer and popcorn.
I ran in the kilt this morning -- it's the base for what I'll be wearing in Sunday's Halloween 5k, so it had better be comfortable running gear (and it was). Tonight I'll be hitting the gym, and will follow that with a stop at Porter's.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Morning weigh-in: 181.5#, 13.5% BF
Well, I was going to go to yoga last night, but the weather looked like it would hold out and I decided to do a towpath ride, and so that rain the blew in around 6:00 last  night was basically my fault. No ride, oh well, instead I did a little more reading (Gibson's new Zero History -- verdict so far: meh), downloaded a bunch of old J. Geils Band, and uploaded my pictures from Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day. Dinner was more chili.
Takes One To Know One: Nice takedown of Richard "You Don't Need Math -- I'm An Idiot And I Have A Great Job!" Cohen. Schmuck.
Ran this morning, going to the gym tonight. I may skip Two Brew Tuesday, gotta watch my figure.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Overused And Subdued

It was another good, but another hectic, weekend...
I had off on Friday, so Anne and I hit the Allentown Farmer's Market (which is sort of like a PA Dutch version of the original Englishtown auction building, the one that burned down years ago, and the place is always good for people watching), then we used the rest of the day to brew beer -- that is to say, she brewed beer and I occasionally washed something or helped with the heavy lifting. There's a lot of downtime involved, waiting for water to heat up or cool down, so I got in a trip to the hardware store, picked up one more missing piece for our infrastructure  -- our new heat exchanger coil hooks up to an outdoor hose connection, so I got an adapter from the kitchen tap to the coil, and now we can cool the boiled wort in minutes without lifting it off the stove -- and I also got a haircut. (Hair and beard are much shorter than usual, but I've been informed by a reliable source -- the one that counts -- that it looks good.)
Friday night was the monthly Heels on Wheels ride and pub crawl. Smaller crowd than usual, maybe the smallest since the beginning, and I was the only guy. We started at the Brew Works, rode over to The Bookstore but couldn't get in, hit Your Welcome and JP McGrady's (a beer in each and a little Led Zeppelin on the jukebox), then we finished the night with a late dinner back at Brew Works.
Saturday was Philly with the Porter's Pub bus trip. I got a crock pot of chili going, and we got in a couple of other errands in the morning, then we were out the door around noon, and made the bus in time this time. There were a few people on the trip that I knew at least partly (Larry, his brother and sister-in-law), but it was mostly strangers. We had no set itinerary, just a map with some suggestions near Rittenhouse Square, and we were all basically on our own, but when we arrived we basically all poured off the bus and into the nearest/first place on the list -- The Black Sheep. Awesome place, very much like a traditional Irish pub, or at least my idea of one, and they had Chimay on tap...
One and done, then we went with Larry over to Nodding Head Brew Pub. Another awesome place, in a very different way: it was almost like a scene from one of my dreams of Easton or whatever, or maybe something from the Matrix like when they were climbing around "inside the wet wall," and their beer was excellent. Everyone else was at a place next door, and that's where K-Jo caught up with everyone, so we stopped in and said hi -- but we were hungry, so Anne and I went and got some serious comfort food at The Good Dog, and then we went a little further afield, a little sightseeing  on South Street. We caught up with the crew at the famous Monk's Cafe, and then it was time to head home. Back at Porters at a pretty decent hour, maybe 10:30 and the place was jumping, but we just went home.
(Every place we went, was great, especially Nodding Head and the Black Sheep, and they're all high on my list for a return trip.)
Sunday was more puttering around the house, working on the bikes, occasionally checking on the chili and listening to the plop-plop of the beer brewing as the CO2 escaped through the little water seals; Anne also made sauerkraut, so we now have one more thing bubbling away in the kitchen. We took off around 2:00 and rode Jacobsburg, which was really nice, despite the presence of a whole lot of horses, and their droppings. The place was packed, we actually got the last parking space in the main lot, but other than the equestrians, and maybe one or two other bikers, we had the trails pretty much to ourselves. Ten miles, mellow pace, and it really was beautiful out there.
We had some people over to help us eat chili, the usual crew (Debbie, Donna, Liz). Everyone seemed a little tired, and we just sort of hung out and BS'ed. Next weekend is another hectic blowout, then I think everyone is going to want to lay low until the holidays.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Recording The Cramdown

Morning weigh-in: 180.5#, 14.5% BF
A month or so ago I'd have been shocked by those numbers, but now (even though I really don't have anything else to say) I'm happy enough that I had to get them on record, before the coming weekend weight gain...
What's up? Blessed are the people whose annals are tiresome... Earlier in the week I decided to get a kilt (a friend was helping to sell them at Celtic Fest, but that had long since come and gone before I made up my mind), and on Tuesday I ordered one; it should be here in a week or so, definitely in time for the Halloween 5k. In other news, I upgraded my computer last night, Ubuntu 9.whatever, so now I'm only like a year behind. Things seemed to go pretty smoothly, what little I got to see of the new stuff this morning.
Meltdown I guess I was tired from Sunday's ride, and then Monday morning's run, because I thought I was going to keel over in Monday night's yoga class. My legs started trembling in one standing pose, and they never stopped until we were almost finished. It was kind of freaky -- for a while I didn't think I'd be able to walk out of there, let alone drive home... I took Tuesday as a rest day, then rode an easy towpath ride last night (even so, I was tired), went to bed early, and this morning was another run. Tonight is the gym, and we'll see if I feel better than last week.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Two Weekends

Morning weigh-in: 182#, 14.5% BF

OK, a little catch-up...

We went up to Northampton the weekend before last to visit Ben. We watched him run the Hartford Marathon on Saturday morning, and hung out Friday and (especially) Saturday nights with him and his friends, and Sunday morning -- after a nice run, our only real exercise for the weekend -- was coffee shop and bookstore time, split between Northampton and Amherst. It was a lot of fun seen Ben and his friends (including one we met in St Petersburg, small world), and the weekend was a really nice mini-vacation.

Last week was mostly rainy, like the week before, and we mostly continued to catch up with unfinished business left over from our Moab trip; mostly this meant getting the bikes back up and running. (Until our ride yesterday, I hadn't been on a mountain bike since we came home from Moab, and I think the weigh-in kind of reflects that...)

My parents visited us on Saturday. So... Friday night was kind of quiet, maybe a little housework before we went out, then on Saturday morning Anne got up early and ran some shopping errands (basically, we'd bought a quarter of a cow, and she had to go pick up the meat) while I did some final straightening in the house and yard. My parents arrived about noon, and then we all went up to Mauch Chunk Lake Park (picking up Anne's mom along the way) to walk around and check out the fall foliage. Things seem to be running a little late, colors have not quite peaked yet but it still was beautiful there, with a cloudless blue sky and enough breeze to keep the temperature brisk. We walked down along the lake towards the gun club, then came back and went to dinner outside of town.

Some friends had a party, and we stopped in later in the evening, but they have five cats and a dog -- I only knew about the dog -- and we had to cut our visit short.

Early to bed, late to rise, and then we went back up to Jim Thorpe, this time to ride the American Standard. That's one of my favorite rides in JT, and Anne loves it too, so we had a good old time riding in the autumn-bright woods, at least until we ran out of steam and took the jeep road back. We ran into an old friend (Liz), in the parking lot with her husband and the local ride crew, and we talked with them for a little while before heading home. Taco dinner, nightcap at Brew Works, and the weekend was complete.

Ran this morning, hitting yoga tonight.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Another Week Down

Morning weigh-in (Wednesday): 179.5#, 13.5% BF
Morning weigh-in (Thursday): 180.5#, 13.5% BF
Good yoga class yesterday, and a bit tougher than I've become used to -- I did a "mixed level" class at The Yoga Loft, which had an emphasis, last night at least, on standing poses and preparation for headstands, and I was sweating and breathing hard before it was over. I think that for now, and despite the distance, I'll be sticking with Easton Yoga where things feel more familiar (and I have an already-paid-for unlimited class pass), but it was nice to expand my horizons a bit. I should try to hit the more vigorous classes more often; last night felt good.
Speaking of expanding my horizons, I'm looking at going back to school. Nothing major, I just want to take an online course or two in Geographic Information Systems, plus a refresher course in math, maybe some statistics, and eventually maybe a little biology or whatever -- I don't have a field of study, and I probably will not be working towards any degree or certificate or anything like that, I just want to bone up on areas that interest me, and see where that leads. Penn State has an interesting online program for GIS; that's where I'll probably end up.
Listening: I downloaded some Van Morrison (Astral Weeks, Moondance) last night, and listened to Astral Weeks on the way in to work this morning. I normally run the Droid on "shuffle" but I've been on an album kick lately: I listened to Titus Andronicus's The Monitor the other day while retrieving the bikes (in other news, our bikes are back from Moab, but not yet built), and listened to Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane, Over The Sea on the ride in yesterday.
Tonight is the gym, then we're heading up to visit Ben for the weekend. Tomorrow night is a symposium on Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, then on Saturday Ben's running in the Hartford Marathon. I think Sunday is Book Store and Coffee Shop Time...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Rundown

Morning weigh-in: 180.5#, 15% BF
Rough night at yoga last night: I was tired and a little headachey, but I went anyway, and the headache just got worse and worse. Meanwhile, I started getting leg cramps in a lot of the positions... Shavasana couldn't come soon enough, and I think I might have fallen asleep -- complete with snoring -- before the end.
The whole ride home I was debating whether to eat something or just go straight to bed (I was not hungry at all). Luckily Anne made a pumpkin-potato soup, and I had a bowl of it, and that -- plus a little restorative web-browsing -- seemed to revive me: I still went to bed early, but I felt a lot better after eating than I had before. I was supposed to go for a run this morning, and I woke up this morning feeling great, but we hit the snooze button anyway and blew off our scheduled morning run, "because of the rain."
(Hmmmm... leg cramps, headaches, fatigue, symptoms that go away after eating right -- dehydrated? -- low electrolytes? -- vitamin D issues, again? I've definitely been letting the nutrition slide lately, but I didn't realize it had become that bad.)
Got more pics and some video on Sunday, from the VMB's Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day, that I'll be posting in the next few days, stay tuned.
Tonight is the gym, followed by Taco Night.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Reality Bites

Morning weigh-in (Monday): 181#, 14.5% BF
Morning weigh-in (Tuesday): 180#, 14.5% BF
Oh well, back at work, second day back since the vacation. It was an awesome time though: a little more than a week away, five rides and a hike, plus the usual sightseeing, nightlife etc. I took a boatload of photos, and all the keepers (133 pictures by my count) are now uploaded, so go check them out!
(I also took some video, but it needs a little massaging and may run too long for flickr, so -- after I learn how -- I'll edit the video & then probably put it on YouTube or something. Stay tuned.)
Things here are fairly busy: I pumped out a lot of stuff, drawings and calculations, things for internal review etc, in the days before I left, and it's all coming back. I was only gone for four work days, but right now I'm running around answering questions, catching up with design changes, reviewing comments and making revisions. Busy is good...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rest Day

We rode (most of the way) up to Hurrah Pass on Monday, then yesterday Anne and I rode up from town and did the Slickrock Trail, and in the afternoon hiked out to Delicate Arch in the national park. Today was supposed to be an on-and-off rainy day, so while the rest of the crew decided to take their chances, we took the day off. Reading, going into town for breakfast and some shopping/sightseeing, now we're hanging out at the condo. (I am watching the heavy clouds pass by over the cliffs as I write this.) Some rain blew through, I'm sure those guys are OK but I think we made the right choice.

The vacation is starting to wind down. We have tomorrow (Porcupine Rim), then maybe a ride on Friday before it all comes to an end.

I've been posting photos every day, don't forget to check them out. I now have over 5000 photos on Flickr, 92 of them (so far) from this trip.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

One Day Down

Whew! Tough day, between the sun, and heat, and sand, and climbing, and the altitude (only 4600 feet, but still something us sea-level types could really feel).

We rode the Sovereign Trail, a new section to the west of the main part of the trail system. I'm not sure if recent (hot and dry) conditions made things sandy, or if this area is normally like that but it was definitely sandy. Tough going, like trying to ride at the beach or in snow. Beautiful day though, cloudless and blue sky, the usual amazing desert scenery...

Tomorrow I think Anne and I will do an "us" day. It was fun riding with the crew today, but I think we might want to keep it mellower than they do, so we'll probably do Hurrah Pass -- skipping the (likely sandy) bottom section.

Almost Ready To Start

Well, here we are in beautiful Moab, Utah, sitting around the upstairs porch and drinking coffee, waiting for the day to start.

The trip here was fairly uneventful, even if it made for a long day: up at 3:00 AM, we flew out of Newark and arrived in Salt Lake City around 10:00 local time, and followed that with a nice looooong drive -- maybe 4 hours but it felt like forever. Settled in at the condo, retrieved the bikes, got some dinner and we totally crashed by 9:00.

Now comes breakfast. Anne is making pancakes, which I hope doesn't become a trend but she says she likes to cook so... We should be done and ready to ride by 9:00 -- we're hitting the Sovereign Trail.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lost Weekend

Morning weigh-in: 179#, 14% BF (not so good...)
Here's something I can't say every day: I did a nice run this morning with Anne. Not far, maybe 2.5 miles but it felt really good, especially since the last time I did a real run (ie not counting that Hash thing) was back in April.
One friend, on the local bike club forum, has a signature file that reads "every day you don't ride is another day you will never ride." Which usually just sounds like another version of "meh, trite but true," but to me it's the epitaph for last weekend: except for Friday night's "Heels on Wheels" ride, I was pretty much immobile the entire weekend, and it came back to bite me...
Friday was my computer-obsession day, then came Friday night's ride. The Heels on Wheels crew was the biggest group yet, maybe 10 girls in skirts & heels, plus a few auxiliary dudes, and we hit a bunch of places, on the north and south sides of the river, before making it home.
Saturday was another wasted day, or rather a recovery day, all headachey and spent (again) in front of the laptop, while Anne baked a cake -- she was making it for Judy's surprise birthday party that night, which made things very awkward when Judy called, saying she was in the neighborhood and would be stopping by. We scrambled, hid the partially-assembled cake (and icing, and sundry other incriminating cake-baking-type things) in the bedroom, and I don't think she ever knew, though we were practically choking on our laughter. That night was her party, and though I was a bit subdued -- and did not partake of any alcoholic cheer -- it was another fun night.
Maybe I could have gone riding on Sunday, but when I woke up it was pouring, and Anne was doing one leg (of the relay race) in the local marathon -- I met her at the end of her leg, then we went to the finish line in Easton to cheer her team on, and then we (me, Anne, and her teammates Liz, Kris & Tony) grabbed brunch at Porters. Some shopping, some reading, some napping, and the day was over. So much couch-potato living, and in the end I felt like warmed-over shit, all lethargic and sleepy.
I went to yoga last night, first time in like forever, and it felt great. Tonight is the gym, tomorrow night will probably be a towpath ride on the singlespeed. I feel like I have to get back in the game.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Geekout On A Sunny Day

I've been using GRASS for about two years now, mostly playing around with maps of Sals.  I have the trail network mapped out pretty well at this point, and recently figured out how to use GPX files of trail networks in my Garmin, having them them show up on the map like any other road, so naturally I wanted to do that with my Sals map on GRASS...

In the past I have been able to get the GRASS trails saved as GPX files, but the process involved jumping through a lot of hoops - I had to convert my data from the coordinate system I'm using on my personal map, to the standard one used by GPS units, then output that to a GPX file as output, converting from GRASS's internal format along the way. (There is actually a command in GRASS that would do all of this in a single step, but it never worked. Doh!)

Two nights ago I was messing with my map yet again, and wanted to generate a newer GPX file, and I got so totally frustrated by all the hoop-jumping and broken commands I couldn't think of anything else. Today's my Friday off, so as soon as I got up this morning I opened up the file for the offending command (a shell script called "v.out.gpsbabel"), took it apart and found the problem.

Turns out that the script massages the data by piping it through some sed commands, and this script, like so many scripts before it, had foundered on the rock of regular expressions. Two minutes figuring out what was supposed to happen, a schnipsel here and there, and now the thing works like a charm! I played with it for a while, but I only really had a half-minute task for it to do, and it was a bit anticlimactic after all that work.

I tapped the keyboard listlessly for a while, trying to recapture my fading high, then went out for a haircut. Now I'm hanging with Anne in a new (to me) coffee shop on New Street. (Anne wouldn't care, she's "blogging" old-school with pen and paper, but our regular coffee-shop hangout has had a lot of wireless problems lately, so we've been branching out.)

Another geeky discovery: I was clicking idly through phone's settings, and found that the Droid supports tethering, so I can access the Internet with the laptop, without needing a wi-fi connection. Sweet! -- but it's another anticlimax, because the wi-fi here at The Wise Bean is pretty decent. And so's the coffee...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Back To Work

Well, Labor Day is behind us, though due to the vagaries of our "every other Friday off" system this is actually a three-day week for me, it's not quite the end of vacation season... The weekend was spent with the usual biking hijinks (Big Pocono on Friday, Jacobsburg on Saturday, and a circumnavigation of South Mountain on the road bikes on Sunday), plus a few picnics and other end-of-summer activities.
Fun With Maps #1: For its monthly meetings, the VMB rotates through small list of venues, and the question always arises: which one is the most convenient -- in other words, which is closest, or easiest to get to -- for the majority of our membership? (We have members in  Raubsville and Bucks County, Emmaus and Macungie, Tamaqua, Stroudsburg, and the Slate Belt, and even a few in western New Jersey, as well as the Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton areas.) I don't have information on member addresses, but I do know where the different venues are, and I thought that, as a good first approximation, I could find the most centrally located of the venues by comparing driving times (as given by Google Maps driving directions) from each one to the others: the one with least total driving time to all the others would be the most centrally located.
I have about 10 venues in my dry run, which -- counting "point A to point B" and "point B to point A" as separate cases (drive times can differ in each direction), but ignoring "point A to point A" -- that gives 90 different sets of directions to work through. This looks like a job for automation, and luckily I found a way to do it. I wrote a pretty simplistic script the other day, to get the data from Google and look for drive times, but I don't have all the bugs worked out: there is no error checking, so if the mapping request hits a snag it just bombs. I should have the thing finalized in a few days though. From what preliminary results I did get, I suspect that the Bethlehem venues are going to remain the most viable meeting places.
Noted In Passing #1: Happy 110th Birthday, Galveston Hurricane!
Fun With Maps #2: Anne and I did a short Jacobsburg ride a week ago Thursday, hitting mostly the boring parts, doubletrack through grassy fields and the like, and were talking about the other parts of the park. Anne said that she and Donna had been exploring, but hadn't found their way over to the good parts, and she had found the official park trail map a bit inadequate...
That night I went onto Garmin Connect and grabbed a bunch of GPX tracks from Jacobsburg rides, mine and others, and then fired up TopoFusion. I fed in all the tracks, then ran TopoFusion's "make network" analysis -- this is the feature that made TF worth getting for me -- which analyzed them and reduced them to a single trail network. Plopped the new network into Google Earth, superimposed the official Jacobsburg trail (found online), and hit "Print," and we now have our own trail map!
So, this Friday we rode Jacobsburg again, with a little more time available to explore, though we forgot the new (printed) map -- Anne wanted to see what she could navigate from memory, so it was OK. I'd loaded a GPX of the trail network onto my Garmin, and I'd also uploaded a version of it onto Google Maps, and I wanted to experiment, compare and contrast, navigating with both Droid and Garmin...
The Garmin was a disappointment -- you couldn't see the trail network, just each separate trail in the network (like, one at a time), and it was more "navigate this trail" than "show the trail on the map." The Google Maps trail was beautiful -- much better looking than on the regular computer, where the network is spread among multiple pages instead of showing up all on one page -- and came in handy several times for illustrating where we were. We did everything in the park, except the grassy doubletrack...
Noted In Passing #2: Happy 36th Anniversary, Nixon Pardon!
Fun With Maps #3: In terms of the Garmin, it was back to the drawing board, which in this case meant back to Garmin to upgrade my firmware, and since they don't support Linux, that meant downloading their special software (with proprietary drivers) onto Anne's Mac, and going through the upgrade process from there. Things worked out just fine, despite the extra hoops I had to jump through; now I have the latest system on my 705, and that does support showing tracks on the map (you still have to work with them one at a time if there are a bunch on the GPX file). I experimented with this tonight -- I generated a GPX of the Sals trails from my GRASS database, and will added that as well as the Jacobsburg map. It's all I ever really wanted, that I didn't already have, from the 705, at least for now...
Passed, Not Noticed: It was just about 10 years ago that I had my worst bike crash ever. The actual date was August 11, 2000, when I crashed avoiding someone making a sudden left turn in front of me. Concussion, lacerations, coma, I spent the next 3 days in the hospital, and back in July I thought for sure that I would definitely remember the anniversary. Nope.
By blog doesn't go back that far, but here's what I wrote five years ago.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back To School

The local kids, not me... seems weird, they're all going back a lot earlier these days, not just locally and not just college kids. "Better them than me," I say, as I sit in my office...
It was a great weekend for biking: Thursday night at Jacobsburg, Friday on the American Standard in Jim Thorpe, Saturday at Jordan, and Sunday, which was supposed to be a long-ish road ride, but we got to Emmaus, had some iced coffee, thought better about it -- tired, hot, we had guests coming over later --  and headed home.
The Jim Thorpe ride was especially good. Just me and Anne; we did a big chunk of the American Standard including the "roller coaster" stuff, then (my mistake) we made a wrong turn, which brought us to a shortcut out, so we bailed. Still, pretty impressive ride, about 11 miles or so, ride stats can be found here. (I don't know why, but I keep going back to this ride in my mind; it's like: here was one of my life's high points that I didn't quite realize at the time.) Got some pictures, mostly of unusual mushrooms, but also one or two of me at the eponymous urinal -- don't worry, not those kinds of pictures, I didn't use the thing -- so stay tuned...
Tonight is going to be Sals, also with Anne.
Reading: Anne's been on a real Margaret Atwood kick lately, and just finished (among others) The Year of the Flood, which she loved and highly recommends. Rather than starting with that one though, I took on Oryx and Crake, a sort of prequel to The Year of the Flood. I can't put it down.
Listening: Back in 1983 or so I was working at the local drugstore as a stock clerk and delivery boy, and on my drug runs I would listen to the same Yes cassette over and over, and over, driving around in my AMC Pacer. The other day I downloaded that very album, and drove home yesterday jamming to "Yours Is No Disgrace" like it was 1983 all over again. (Other recent downloads include Oasis and the White Stripes, so there's at least a little temporal bandwidth in my nostalgia kick.)
 Not much else going on. Yesterday was a rest day; I did some some drycleaning/laundry/lawnmower catch-up, and we had an awesome steak dinner at home. I'd been messing with the Turner's suspension settings lately (on coach Jon's advice), and last night I did some playing around, practicing my corners out in the street for a while.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Love Me Now That I Can

Woo, what a ride!

Jon is an old friend, the younger brother of my riding buddy Joe. He's been a professional racer for years, just an awesome rider, and now that he's a mountain bike coach I decided to get some lessons. (I want to get out of the "comfort zone" I built for myself over the last few years, and was especially looking for help with cornering, which has always been a problem -- maybe a mystery? -- to me...) Last night was our evaluation ride: he followed me down the usual Yellow/Orange/Red route at Sals, from Dodson to the bottom of Constitution, stopping a few times to give pointers and to practice at good "teachable moment" locations, then in the bottom lot he had me practicing the new cornering method he wants me to master -- I think it'll be a while before it really clicks. Time and daylight were running out by that point, so we took the road back up the hill, practicing the relaxed standing climb he also wants me to use.

It was a real eye-opener. My main take-away (other than the new cornering tips) was that I'm too stiff on the bike, mainly because I spend way more time than I should seated rather than standing. Jon also wants me to lower my cadence in a lot of stuff, especially hills -- a bullet through the heart of my previous training regimen -- powering up with standing sprints and recovering at the top; he had me ride through technical sections in a higher gear than I normally would, at higher speeds, and whenever I "got it" (not always), it would really work. You learn something new every day...

There Are Many Rooms In The Super Dimensional Fortress: I was playing with my toy program again the other day, and it finally dawned on me why I was getting that intermittent "cannot execute binary file" error: when you log onto SDF, there are a number of different machines you can connect to. Normally I don't make any distinction between them, letting the system choose the most convenient connection at each logon, and I never really noted which machine I was running on. It turns out though, that there are differences between the different servers, and when you compile on one server it produces a program that runs on that server, which may or may not work on the other machines. Log in on one server, compile and run, log out and back in (onto another server), and -- fail.

The explanation is simple enough, but -- other than always logging in to the same server (or always running make before using the program) -- I don't know what the solution might be.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Looking Back

Pretty good weekend, though a little on the low-energy side...
I took off Friday, and we went to Barnegat Light to visit my brother at the beach house he rented -- photos on Flickr -- then Saturday was a sort of "slacker day" for me -- no doubt a necessity after all the sunburn and playing in the ocean -- while Anne tackled some heavy-duty gardening. (We were supposed do the Hash Run, but neither of us felt really motivated.) Saturday evening was a tour of Southside: we hit the Bookstore (OK) and the Funhouse (boring band), then stopped in at Brew Works on the way home and met up with some of the bike crowd.
Sunday was another mellow day, a rainy day... We had a late breakfast at Jumbar's with Donna and her beau, who told us of all the Hashing shenanigans they got into (and it did sound like fun, but I'm glad we skipped it), then we all went over to the Brew Works for their Mug Club Auction.
Yes that's right, we finally got our Brew Works mugs, but not without a fight... Instead of a straight mug purchase, like at Weyerbacher and Which Brew, or the "drink all the different beers on this list and you're in the club" approach of Porter's Pub, Brew Works does things a little differently: mug club size is kept limited, then every year they auction off the non-renewing memberships. We spent over $200 apiece in very competitive bidding for the limited places, but we now have our place among the Star Bellied Sneeches. We drank our complimentary mug (most expensive Free Beer I've ever had) then headed home.
Anne and I crashed for a while, watched "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" (Swedish, subtitles, pretty good & it didn't stray too far from the book), then rode over to Lehigh Pizza for a late dinner.
Last night was the gym, followed by our first paying use of our new mugs.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

That's How It's Done

Morning weigh-in: 174.5#, 13% BF
Got home last night and hopped on the singlespeed -- the Turner had a surprise flat -- and rode like a madman down the towpath. Anne was about an hour ahead of me, riding with Deb and Donna and Amy, and when I got to the boat launch I got a message that they were just a little ahead, and heading to Porter's for dinner... I caught up with them at Porter's, where we had a killer dinner and got to hang out with Larry & Kelly-Jo (among others), then we tooled back to Bethlehem together, in the dark on the towpath. Fell into bed around 10:30. What fun!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pafko At The Wall

Morning weigh-in: 175#, 13% BF
Rode last night over at Sals, a solid ride broken up by the VMB meeting at the lower lot, and followed by a visit to Brew Works to meet the post-knitting ladies. Good news on the heart rate front too: my max HR is back in the mid 170's, a sign that I am no longer fatigued. Now, if only I were not slow...
A Sad Synchronicity: I remember reading "Pafko at the Wall" in Harper's when it first came out, and it's still my favorite part of Underworld. I just happened to pick up and start re-reading it the other night, and yesterday I saw that Bobby Thomson, the guy who'd hit "The Shot Heard Round The World," had passed away.
 If I don't ride tonight, it'll be a rest day (except maybe some at-home yoga), but there's the lawn, and laundry, and bills, etc so I think it'll be a night at home. Tomorrow is the gym with Dawn, first time since June.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Musikfest Recap

Morning weigh-in: 176#, 15% BF
Some of the Bands I Saw:
Start Making Sense (3 times)
Zen For Primates
Trouble City All Stars (2 times)
Brother JT3
Los Straitjackets (2 times)
Insidious Rays
The Red Elvises
Philly Funk Authority
Eric Steckel
The Great White Caps
(These include visits to some peripheral venues...)
Food I Ate, Beer I Drank: Surprisingly little, unless you count visits to the Brew Works. Maybe Anne's kitchen skills have spoiled me, or maybe I just couldn't see any of the good vendors, but the food seemed especially nasty this year, like the worst of county fair crap, and I had no appetite for the stuff. I got a good meal at the Wildflower one night, dinner at BW a few times, and beer almost exclusively at the Brew Works, even if I had to walk across the entire Fest to get my refills.
Weight I Gained Anyway: About 5 pounds (unofficial).
Been going to the gym again, riding here & there (towpath last night, Emmaus on Friday), getting back in the swing of things. Tonight is either Sals, or Jacobsburg with Anne.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Forgot to note yesterday the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, which got me drifting along Pynchonesque paths... Hiroshima, spared most war damage, saved for a more terrible fate, mba-kayere, "I am passed over," Enzian's mantra as he wonders if he'd been spared in the Herero genocide, or if he's similarly being held in reserve.

Is This The SS Linux? Not really, but I have been playing with the gadgets again lately. What I did was install an app called ConnectBot on my Droid, which lets me SSH into my Freeshell account. I also recently moved a few of my toy programs from the laptop over to the "Super Dimensional Fortress" too, minor changes and they ran just fine -- at least when I ran them while connected from the laptop.

I connected through my droid, tried running the programs, and got all sorts of error messages, "cannot execute binary file," etc. Tried again at home, they ran just fine. No luck on a google search, I just (randomly) decided to recompile the programs via the droid, and now they work from wherever I connect. Go figure...

Skipped the ride last night, then made it a late one with trips to the Wildflower Cafe and the Funhouse. First Friday on Southside, Musikfest across the river, the old town was crowded, though our return up Main Street, after everything was closed, was like going through a desert.

I'll be hitting Sals in about an hour, yo later.

Friday, August 06, 2010


Wow, my little hiatus has stretched to two weeks, better get cracking...
I've been riding, but they've mostly been easy rides, some towpath, a little Sals, and one longer road ride over Blue Mountain with Anne last weekend. (Last night I rode to the rope swing at Freemansburg, met Anne, Deb, Donna & Liz there, and jumped into the river for a good long swim.) I really feel like I'm in the middle of a slump, the "crash" part of "peak and crash," and I've been fairly happy with that. (Rode up to Lehigh through campus on Wednesday, and was so whooped I blew off the actual ride when I got to the top.) According to my original training regimen, after the peak I should be useless for hard riding for about four weeks, and that time period is almost over. I don't know what kind of regimen, if any, I'll be following after I get back in the game -- I can't say "back in the saddle," because I actually have been getting out more often, lately, than I was while training -- maybe I will use the "just ride" method, it's always worked well before. By the way, it's been weeks since the gym, and months since I went to yoga. Much act needs to be gotten together.
Speaking of "act," we went to the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival this week (at Desales, maybe 15 minutes away), and saw "The Merry Wives of Windsor."
This next week, starting tonight, the main part of Bethlehem will be inundated: it's the start of Musikfest. Not sure what I want to see, but there's plenty to choose from. I'll probably ride at Sals tonight; maybe I'll get to hear some of the headliners (in pay-to-see venue, but it's literally across the river from Sals). Tonight's headliner is Counting Crows, a distinct "meh" but even Kenny G sounded pretty decent once, when heard from the Red Trail. Maybe a little Doppler Effect?
By the way, the skin thing is a thing of the past. I have a new allergist, and she's really good.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Stand Down: Come To A Decision On It

No morning weigh-in: my official weigh-in procedure is to step on the scale before breakfast, just before stepping into the shower, but lately I've been eating breakfast at home, and to save time I do that while the water boils for coffee, ie long before I shower. I'll have to come up with a new procedure...
Today marks Day # of the Great Clinton Water Emergency, we can't use the tap water here at work (not for drinking, or washing hands, or cooking) because they found E. coli in the town well. I will keep eating breakfast at home, and limit myself to Diet Coke at work, at least until they give us the all clear.
My Decision: The Wilderness 101 is a week from tomorrow, and I've decided that I'm not really ready for it, so I am not going. Last weekend's rides were the final tests, and I felt like death on at least one (the other was too short and easy to really tell me anything); since those results might have been anomalous, I tested the situation again with a Sals ride on Tuesday -- and I felt even worse. I'm kind of disappointed, but I just don't think I'm up for it -- 100 miles is a long ride on a mountain bike, that's a lot further than "tough it out" can carry you and I do not feel like spending $200 or more to suffer for 15 hours -- or worse, drop out before the finish like last year. "Go big or go home," as the saying goes, and I think I'd better stay home.
So what about all that training? Some observations:
1. I really felt great a few weeks ago. The training guide I followed says up front that you'll crash after week 11 or so, after peaking at around week 8 of the program, because this program will not give you the base necessary to sustain high levels of effort. (The W101 was supposed to be at the end of week 10.) I wonder if I actually peaked a week or so ago, and crashed early too.
2. I think I made some real progress on this program, and -- up until a week or so ago -- I was riding much better than I had been when I started. Unfortunately, I think I started too far back, I had too much ground to make up.
Anyway, now my time is my own again, that weekend as well as training days. I rode last night with a bunch of friends at Sals, and will do it again tomorrow, and will probably be getting back into yoga and the gym regularly soon.
Reading: I am almost done with Pynchon's latest, Inherent Vice. Pretty good read, more like Vineland or The Crying of Lot 49 than anything else he's done, and fairly entertaining if a bit thin by Pynchon standards -- it's practically a beach novel. When I'm done with this I'll probably take up The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, last in Steig Larssen's "Millennium Trilogy," and another fairly light summer thriller. Anne just finished the second book in the series, so I better hurry if I want to stay ahead...
Listening: Recent downloads include the Decemberists' "The Hazards of Love," both albums by Neutral Milk Hotel and Titus Andronicus's "Monitor." For some reason, probably just temporal proximity, they all seem very similar.
Tonight we're going to the Velodrome.
Update: They just lifted the drinking water restrictions! Party!!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Portrait In Sunburn and Lakewater

Oops! wrote this Monday, forgot to post it...
Morning weigh-in (Monday): 174#, 12% BF
Terrible accident on the way in this morning. I didn't see it happen, just dealt with the aftermath -- they closed I-78 for a while, and I was stuck for more than an hour -- and saw the wreckage when they finally let us through. Three cars at least, one flipped on its side, scene looked like a yard sale littered across the road... People drove carefully for a few miles afterwards, but within minutes I saw the same old stupidity.
Anyway, good weekend, lotsa biking too. The second Heels On Wheels pub crawl (Friday night) was a smashing success, with the ladies (Anne, Donna, Debbie, Amy, and a few others) out riding bicycles in in their skirts and heels, plus a few tag-along guys like myself who were, um, intrigued by the concept... We started at Brew Works, then hit the Bookstore, then Welcome, then Mach's Gut before finishing with nachos back at Brew Works.
Saturday was a bit of a rough morning, but Anne and I got out to Drewstock 2010 (ie the Riverside Bar, just north of Easton on 611), where fellow VMB'er Robin was running the charity road ride. Things stayed rough for me until about the 10-mile mark, but after that I felt pretty good, and Anne and I ended up in the breakaway pack in the "fast group" -- the pace wasn't really too bad, but there were a lot of mechanicals, missed turns etc, and the front group really got winnowed down, just us two and three guys, hammering away on the hot tarmac. Luckily, the entire second half felt like it was down hill... It was a beautiful ride, and an awesome route, and then we dipped our derrieres in the Delaware for about an hour after we got back to the Riverside. They were having bands and a pig roast later in the day, but we took off after the swim, we had plans: we spent Saturday night (after a nap) at a friend's house party, listening to impromptu jam sessions and sampling homebrew.
Sunday was a ride in Jim Thorpe. I'd originally planned to do a Twin Peaks mini-epic, a fairly substantial group ride, while Anne rode the Switchback Trail with a few friends, but in the end it was just Anne and Liz and me, so rather than riding alone I tagged along with the ladies. This was another great ride, and again it was followed by a nice dip -- we rode out to the end of the dam at Mauch Chunk Lake and treated the rocks like our own private beach. (I managed to get some "nice color," ie lobster-level sunburn, on my chest and shoulders.) It was a breezy day, and while the water was warm anything above the surface was exposed to the chilling breeze. We bobbed along with just our heads above water...
Last night was just hanging out; I brought my photos up to date on flickr -- I didn't take any photos of the Heels On Wheels event, and none to speak of from Drewstock either, but I did get a few good shots yesterday -- and after dinner we met Donna at Brew Works. Now it's Monday, so sad...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Remembering Brian

It was one year ago last Friday that I got the phone call from Joe C: Brian had collapsed while out on a bike ride. (He'd heard that from Mike U, another friend and a neighbor of Brian's, who happened to drive past the accident scene.) Did I know anything? Was he OK? I tried calling the hospital, got nowhere -- privacy rules, yadda yadda -- and finally just called his cell phone. His neighbor answered, crying, crying so hard I could barely understand her but I knew what she was saying. I still couldn't believe it, and I made her say it clearly and out loud: "Brian's dead."
The first time we met was probably about 1994 or 1995, at one of our first trail maintenance events at Jacobsburg. (This was before I joined the Chain Gang, so it was probably under the auspices of the Jacobsburg Trail Volunteer Association.) Colette was there, a mutual friend, and I was talking to her about biking or whatever, just hanging in the parking lot waiting for things to start, and Brian came up and said hello. I don't think we hit it off right away or anything, I just sort of knew him as "Colette's really tall friend."
Over the next year I saw him at a number of races; I remember bumping into him at Lewis Morris just after he bought Tomias's extra-large Super-V. I had my first, normal-sized Super-Vat the time, and I sort of knew both him and Tomias, so though that would be a good icebreaker, and I asked "Hey, wow isn't that Tomias's bike?"
He laughed and said "Not anymore!"
I remember when the bad news was going around the old Chain Gang phone tree, there was a lot of uncertainty: Who found him, who called 911? Did it happen near home, how did Mike happen on the scene? And (this is the part that still hurts) did they really resuscitate him at the crash scene, only to lose him? At the time I really didn't care about details -- the key fact wouldn't change by rearranging the timeline or whatever, but over the past year I did sort of piece together a timeline, and I am kind of glad I did. Sometimes I think it's important that I know what happened, other times I go back to my original attitude: he's gone, there's not much point embellishing.
As the club's perennial bachelors, Brian and I often ended up rooming together on Chain Gang group vacations, and I can say, without fear of contradiction, that that guy could snore!
Brian and I were sharing a room with Eric once, on a weekend trip to race the Vermont 50-Miler.  We had an early start planned, so we went to bed not long after we arrived at the hotel. (The room had twin beds for Eric and me, but Brian, at 6'-7" brought his own extra-large folding cot.) Some time in the middle of the night, Eric and I were both awakened by Brian sawing logs  -- and it was so incredibly, ludicrously loud that we both started giggling. This woke Brian, and he sort of mumbled "Oh, you guys couldn't sleep either, huh?"
The heart stuff started maybe five or so years ago, at least as far as his bike friends knew: he'd been having some chest pains, went for a checkup, and the doctors sent him to the hospital to get a stent, to alleviate the "blockage" they thought they'd found. That didn't work, he really didn't have any blockage -- which Brian took as a vindication that he didn't have "couch potato disease." Next diagnosis dealt with possible valve damage, possibly caused by a virus, and they put him on some kind of medication that limited his maximum heart rate, like a governor on a car. (This was probably the start of his  withdrawal from the bike scene.) He seemed OK for a while, then had more problems; this time the doctors diagnosed some kind of neuro-electrical cause, and he had a procedure to cauterize certain locations on his heart that were screwing up the synchronization. He didn't tell anyone about this procedure until a few weeks afterward... At the funeral someone told me that his heart troubles actually started in the eighties, and now I remember how he once told me about some EKG monitoring he had to have done years ago. At the time (long before his final heart trouble), it was just a throw-away part of some humorous story he was telling, and I didn't think anything of it until his funeral.

Doug and Brian and I used to like hanging at Weyerbacher back when it was a brewpub, and we each secretly thought we'd corrupted the other two babes in the woods -- this came out one night, and we were all very surprised when we finally compared notes on our pasts.
Allamuchy: 1996, 1997, 1998 (teammates), 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 (teammates), 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008
Canaan: 1998, 1999
Slatyfork: 1998
Staunton: 1999
Crested Butte: 1999
Moab: 2000, 2002, 2004, 2008. The general plan was to go every even-numbered year.
Downieville: 2001
PPRAC: 2003, 2005, 2007
The last time I saw him was at his surprise 50th birthday party, just a few weeks before his death.

Standing Six Foot One

Morning weigh-in: 175.5#, 10% BF
Not bad, considering I had a chicken cheese steak and a couple of Black & Blues for dinner last night...
Yes I am back on my cheese game, and also my wheat, milk, egg, and soy games; new, more accurate allergy test results were negative for what seemed (in earlier tests) to be problem foods. I still have to deal with whatever is the root cause of my skin issue, but at least I can eat normal foods again, including my favorite: pizza. Pizza! Ahhhh, life is good, even if the scale doesn't always agree.
I found this out last night at the first visit to my new allergist, who was highly recommended by a friend, and I think she's going to live up to the recommendation. I was there for about three hours (the skin tests take a while) and the woman conducted a friendly & personable, but very intense, consultation/interrogation: general health, past history, current problems, things that work and things that don't. She seemed very on top of her game, almost knew ahead of time a lot of the nuances of my case. I was very impressed, and now we'll see how things pan out.
 Tonight is a training ride, something shorter and a little different: an hour of "endurance miles" with some intervals of high-cadence pedaling thrown in. I'll probably bust out the singlespeed and do this on the towpath, rain or shine. Gotta work these new calories off somehow.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Counting Down

Morning weigh-in: 174#, 12% BF
Pretty good weekend. Friday was a rest day, and an evening out at the Velodrome. Saturday was an impromptu rest day because it was pouring out, so we stayed home and made beer, and in the evening we hit an art opening in Easton. Yesterday Anne and I rode with Donna, and another couple Anne knew from work, up on the Broad Mountain loop. Total fun! Last night was Paul & Mary's Heritage Day party, also very fun.
This is week 8 of my training regimen, the final week building week (there another several weeks of workouts, but they are all for maintenance, I am supposed to be at my peak at the end of this week). We shall see -- Anne's heading out of town to visit Ben this weekend, and I may do a road century, or some long offroad ride, just to see how things stand.
In Memoriam: Brian passed away a year ago Friday. It's strange, so many of the things we did this weekend (the Velodrome, biking on Broad Mountain, Mary's party) were things I did, many times, with Brian over the years --  I spent a lot of time thinking about him this weekend. Hard to believe he's been gone a year.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

More Santa Than Unabomber

Morning weigh-in: 176#, 10% BF (Nice bounceback. Boi-oi-oing!)
Well, the hot weather's supposed to be breaking up soon, but we broke first -- we dragged some room air conditioners down from the attic last night, installing one in the bedroom and one (the bigger one) at the bottom of the stairs. The one downstairs is still struggling to cool the entire ground floor, but last night was the best sleep I had all week.
Speaking of "Boi-oi-oing" Scientists now know how giant squids copulate. Ewwww! And speaking of cephalopods, meet Paul, Germany's most famous soccer-loving psychic octopus. (And speaking of ScienceBlogs: Pepsi?? WTF were they thinking??)
Got a haircut yesterday, another winner from Eskandalo. I've never had a bad haircut there, not even a mediocre one. There seems to be a uniform vision when it comes to men's cuts, nothing radical or crazy -- though they can do that too if you want it -- just a really well done haircut. ("Clean lines" is the phrase that comes to mind.) Dude did a great job, especially on my beard -- and especially considering that my instructions to him were to make it "more like Santa Clause than the Unabomber." I was thinking, like, "Miracle on 34th Street," but he'd never seen it. Sheesh, kids these days...
Went home after the cut, and when Anne got home we did the AC thing, then escaped to the already-chilled air at the Brew Works, where we met Ann & Lois, and Lois's daughter Phoebe who's visiting from Missoula. Dinner was some chili, then we went back to a considerably cooler house.
Anyway, tonight is another peak-fade interval session on the towpath, and now that the house is cooler we'll probably be staying in tonight.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

More Analysis: Stuff From Last Year

I thought I'd look at how I stand compared to last year at this time, at least with two common rides I do: Sals and the towpath. (I didn't start doing the Bloomsbury route until 2010 so I can't include it here.) Unfortunately, many of my rides last year were on the road, or with other people, or generally did not match the criteria I used in my previous analysis, but here are a few rides from last year for comparison.
There was really only one Sals ride in June or July of 2009 that fit my previous criteria, the first one shown here.
Date     Avg Speed
7/7/09   6.0
7/8/09   5.6**
7/27/09  6.5**
The two starred rides were somewhat shorter, between 8 and 9 miles, while my previous analysis only looked at rides between 9 and 12 miles. Even so, I see that I am faster this year, by a little bit at least, for all of them.
There was only one ride that matched my previous criteria in June or July, nothing else even came close to matching.
Date      Avg Speed
7/10/09   15.5
This was a ride I did the day after Brian passed away, and I did it in his memory, and I may have worked out some emotional issues through the pedals... It's close to yesterday's pace, so maybe I can say that my general aerobic pace is comparable.
In terms of general mileage:
         Mileage in...
Month    2009   2010 
April    261    260
May      276    230
June     251    296
So the low mileage I was worrried about last year has repeated itself this year, but I expected that -- I have the same life this year that I had last year, and it's a different one from my lonely but higher-mileage past... We'll see if this year's more effective use of my time brings better results than last year.

I've Always Been Obsessed With Eastasia

Morning weigh-in: 171.5#, 9.5% BF
Nice! But I know that the missing weight is all suppression weight: dinner, after yesterday's "hot lap" in the 100-degree-plus heat, was just a Greek salad and two beers. Today is a rest day, and even if I watch what I eat I should see those numbers come back up, sigh...
This Old Bike #1: I suspect that we'll be doing quite a bit more bike/camp touring soon, so I am now into my next project, which is to get the Iguana up to snuff, or at least a more reliable level of snuff for these kinds of rides. (Old Paint is in good shape for the most part: other than the chain, the only old or substandard components are the wheels. Shifters, derailleurs, brakes, and cables are all relatively new.) I got a new rear wheel and new 7-speed cassette last week, and tonight I'm hitting Cutter's to pick up a new front wheel, chain, and sundry items like rim tape etc. I'll probably be slapping those things on over the next few days.
This Old Bike #2: The BB overhaul and general repacking/relubing project failed to eliminate the squeaks and creaks coming from the Turner, so I guess it's time to replace the crank/BB assembly; I think the rear shock is starting to act a bit funny, so that also needs to be looked at, and it's probably past time to replace the pivots. The shock probably needs factory work (I suppose that'll take forever, so I suppose I'll be buying a replacement as well as getting my original overhauled), and I really don't want to do the pivot replacement myself.... Tonight's Cutter's visit might include a long consultation.
Meantime, last night's ride... That was a fun and fast ride, and my intervals went great -- I think "peak and fade" sort of emulates how I kick it in a real ride -- but in one sense I'm disappointed in myself: thinking yesterday about pace and speed, I kind of pushed it on the ride back, and looking at my stats I see that my heart rate was pretty high for what I was supposed to be doing. The workout is geared around high intensity intervals alternating with intervals of rest, but all that is embedded in an "endurance miles" workout, where pedal cadence is kept high and heart rate kept relatively low. I can make noises about how pushing the pace is a form of event-specific training, but that's what the intervals are for, and the slow stuff is for endurance, and my fun ride last night was actually somewhat counterproductive in terms of endurance.
Anyway, today is a rest day, and tonight I'll be hitting Cutters, and also getting a long-overdue haircut, then maybe doing the lawn. We broke down last night and decided to put an air conditioner in the bedroom, so I'll probably be doing that when I get home too. It's another hot day.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Quick Training Analysis

I was wondering what (if any) measurable benefit I managed to get out of my recent training regimen -- I mean I feel like I'm riding better and faster, but can I see or quantify any benefits? I decided to look at three standard-ish rides I'd done relatively frequently before and during the training period.
This is a loop in Hunterdon County starting from my office; it was my go-to road ride especially in the spring, when I could just hop on the bike and make the most of the remaining daylight after work. This is a table of every Bloomsbury ride I recorded.
Date     Avg Speed
4/5/10   13.4
4/14/10  13.9
4/20/10  14.6
4/28/10  14.5
5/5/10   14.4
6/29/10  15.0
The first two rides were fairly slow, maybe because I was trying to figure out my course or maybe because I was not yet acclimated, then I "got all the slack out of the rope," and had a fairly consistent 14.5 mph average for the next three spring rides, just before I started the training. Fast forward two months, and the last ride shows a 0.5 mph jump in average speed -- nice, but probably not statistically significant, I need more rides.
I have a bunch of Sals rides of all kinds, so I filtered this to include only those solo, daylight rides, between 9 and 12 miles in length; this would put me on one or two fairly standard routes, and hopefully would reduce the effect of the 1.25 mile road ride over (and back) on my offroad average. I also removed some snow rides from the sample, which left only three rides.
Date     Avg Speed
3/20/10  6.1
6/8/10   7.0
6/30/10  7.0
There's a pretty good jump, 0.9 mph, between the first ride (pre-training, in fact before the pre-training base workouts), and recent rides.
I narrowed these these rides to solo, daylight rides, longer than say 17 miles, that do not include anything but the towpath (and the short road ride to/from the Sand Island trailhead).
Date     Avg Speed
4/19/10  12.9
5/24/10  13.3
5/25/10  13.8
6/2/10   13.9
6/18/10  14.1
7/6/10   15.4
These rides included my main training routines, so they show what I would have expected: a progressive, gradual improvement -- 1.1 mph over the period shown. (I didn't count tonight's results, awesome though they were, because I'd just overhauled my bottom bracket, and was running a higher tire pressure, and the towpath surface was hard-packed by the heat, and so  felt unusually fast, and also because I was consciously thinking about my speed, making tonight the time trial that the other rides were not.)
So there you have it! I'm not sure of the statistical significance but I would say that there has been improvement. Would there have been even more improvement with a different training regimen, or even just randomly riding a lot like most summers? No clue.