A New Suit of Clothes

Special thanks to my 9th grade geometry (and 11th grade Calculus) teacher, Ray Peters, of Hampton, PA for the title. I can't even remember what he used it for (something about moving numbers or variables to different sides of the equation -'you take the 8, divide both sides, give it a new suit of cothes' or something like that)... but it's stuck with as a turn of phrase since.

At any rate, the recipient of the aforementioned 'new clothes' in this case is not a digit or a variable, but my bicycle handlebars. Having become enamored with the look of nicely taped and shellacked bars, and the look they lend to the bike as a whole, upon receiving my Surly Long Haul Trucker this last year, I applied a roll of Cinelli 'natural' cork tape and several coats of shellac. After many miles in the saddle, I not only found my cork tape to be uncomfortably (for me... I know a lot of folks love it) squishy, but the shellac was cracking, to boot. So what's a fellow to do? You take the bars, move them over here, and give 'em a new suit of clothes.

But what kind? Well... they had to be less squishy and still look good. And I suck at starting and finishing the ends, so the whole electrical tape or twine thing had to go. I ordered some yellow and brown tressostar cloth tape from Velo-Orange, and followed these instructions. While it took several tries, the harlequin weave really looks nice. It's not perfect, but it's not too bad. It's very difficult to keep the cloth tape from buckling or wrinkling while wrapping an irregularly shaped tube at an angle. 2 layers of cloth (from the weave) will hopefully be soft enough but not squishy (I'm a big fan of the Fizik tape, which seems to have just the right balance). And let's face it, it just looks pretty.

Here it is after one coat:
apologies for the Trib in the background.

The Story of Stuff

Interesting and informative...

If you have a few minutes, check out this video about consumerism.

The Slump of Mid-Summer News Has Come to an End

Pittsburgh gets a little slow in the summer. First of all, it's terrifically hot and muggy in the city, so anyone who can get out, does, and everyone else is holed up in dark, little rooms huddled around clattering window AC units. Most of the students have left. And of course, there is a void in news coverage, as both the Penguins and the Steelers are off. I know baseball season is in full-swing, but frankly the Pirates provide more of a background, static noise, rather than a team that Yinzers religiously follow. (That does not diminish the fun whatsoever of going down to PNC Park and watching a ballgame. We went with Caveman of Ohio, and despite the 9-6 loss, had a phenomenal time.)

Anyway, Steelers camp has started resulting in dozens of daily stories about who was at camp, what Coach Tomlin has to say, what the players have to say about Coach Tomlin, who is too fat to practice, what the ladies who clean the players' rooms think, what random yinzers on the street think, etc. Finally the crew on the DVE morning show have something to talk about again.


KJ - They Reposted...

I spend way too much time on Craigslist looking for weird, part-time gigs.

Anyway, I found the ad I was talking about before.

Title: (event gigs) Person with Dwarfism Wanted to Perform Wedding
The term as related to human beings (the major subject of this article) is often used to refer specifically to those forms of extreme shortness characterized by disproportion of body parts, typically due to an inheritable disorder in bone or cartilage development

We are looking to get married on Halloween by a dwarf. Our wedding theme is Carnival Sideshow-ish so if you are offended by this please do not apply!

I will pay for your ordination in the Universal Life Church. You will be able to use this life-long to legally perform marriages. I will also pay $100 in cash for your services after the ceremony which I will write. We don't want a long speech nor do we want a god, yours or anyone elses, involved. We're atheists.

You and a guest will be invited to stay for the reception which will be at the same place as the ceremony. Other than the food, booze & wacked out people dressed in costumes there will be a sword swallower performing and a DJ playing punk/new wave/alternative/metal/oldies. Probably no dancing.

You are not required to wear any type of religious garb. A suit is fine. Possibly a costume as it's Halloween. Children will be present so no costumes or language over a PG-13 rating.

Edited to ad: not to be rude but I do not need a photographer, DJ or anything else, JUST A DWARF. If you are not a true midget please do not reply. Notice that I have not checked the box allowing people to contact me for other services!


To All My Cyclist Friends - Why we should not get the $%^&* out of the road...Part 1

Today I was verbally assaulted by a man for riding my bicycle in the road. This is not the first time I have heard profanity in reference to my means of transportation. I can only assume that it comes from

(a) frustration over sitting in traffic while commuting. The average commute time in this country is over 100 hours per year, which is more than the two weeks vacation most workers get.

(b) frustration over gas prices, now over $4.00 gallon on average.

(c) frustration over the fuel inefficiency of their vehicles, guzzling down that expensive gasoline

(d) frustration over not getting enough exercise, less than 16% of Americans exercise on any given day...a common reason given is long commute times.

and finally

(e) a lack of understanding of laws applicable to bicycles

I can't really do anything about frustrations a-d, other than say, "get a new job, closer to your home and ride your bike there. You will save mad time and money and even get some exercise to boot." But frankly, that sounds snarky.

So instead, I'll direct your attention to the Pennsylvania Bicycle Laws.

It's not that complicated.

Bikes are considered to be vehicles, and therefore have a right to be on most roads. Bikes are considered to be vehicles, and therefore have a responsibility to follow traffic laws.

I will let everybody digest that one for a minute.

Stay tuned for Part 2.



I've been making some pocket money by answering ads on Craigslist. There are some very interesting jobs out there. I can't apply for this one, but I hope, I hope I am invited to this wedding.


Movies in the Park

Just one more great thing about Pittsburgh. Also everybody cheers when the good guys win. I love that.



Matt and Loren are on their honeymoon in France this week, following the Tour de France on their bicycles. Those of us left behind are jealous, but are compensating by biking every day. By the time they get back, I might actually be bike-fit enough to do some riding with them.

On Saturday M and I went out for a spin around town. It was blazin' hot, and their was an ozone warning, so we ended up not staying out as long as we had originally planned. We headed down Penn Avenue, then cut down to the river, where there is a trail of sorts that goes by the Convention Center. We biked around the Point, where there were plenty of yinzers having barbeques on their boats. Next we sort of got lost, but in the process ended up in the Mon Wharf parking lot. Now I had never been there before, although I had seen countless episodes of WPXI 11 at 11 showing cars quickly being consumed by rising flood water. The picture on the left shows M in Point State Park, gazing at the Best View of Downtown, the Fort Pitt Bridge. This is also the third most terrifying merge in all of Allegheny County. We went across the Smithfield Street Bridge and up the South Side bike trail. When we got to the end of that, we decided not to attempt to bushwhack through the overgrowth to find the rest of the trail, and instead turned around and headed back over the Hot Metal Bridge, up the Panther Hollow Connector Trail and back to Bloomfield via the newly paved Neville Street.

On Sunday, we went with Rita and Tony to the Butler Freeport Trail. We started out in Freeport and basically rode towards Butler until we had had enough. Then we turned around. In between the torrential downpours, the trail was quite pleasant. The portion we traveled on was well-maintained, free from litter and had plenty of benches and picnic tables along the way. There were even a few little three sided shelters, which reminded me somewhat of my AT days. Naturally, we were nowhere near them until we were already completely drenched, but it was a warm day, so no risk of hypothermia. If the weather had been slightly more pleasant, and if we had not gotten such a late start, we certainly would have gone all the way to Butler. As it happened, we were about 5 miles shy.

On Tuesday night, we went out with the Tazza D'oro with Team Decaf. When we showed up and I saw everybody with their fancy cycling shoes and spandex shorts, I started to get a little nervous. When I saw that the route map was 22 miles, I got a little short of breath. And when people started joking about going up 57th street, I was about ready to slip out quietly and pretend I never even had the idea to embark on such an adventure. However, although some of the more serious, or at least more seriously outfitted, folks took off and lost us at the first traffic light, we had a substantial pack with us, pulling up the rear. We met some cool new people, and I absolutely recommend this bike ride, if you would like to get into cycling.

Here are a couple of useful links for biking in the Burgh.
Free Ride
Bike PGH
The Great Allegheny Passage
Yough River Trail - M and I did this one in January. There is an awesome campground in Connellsville, that has heated cabins in the winter!

What's on My Agenda?

While perusing the classifieds for babysitting gigs, I ran across this this intriguing event. I make a mean vegan lasagna, and I'm thinking of entering. Does anyone want to sponsor me? I would love to be able to add Best Lasagna in Pittsburgh to my resume.


Blink of an Eye

That's about how fast the drag races last at Pittsburgh Raceway Park. M and I found ourselves there on Sunday morning, courtesy of M's dad, who gave us some tickets to the Pittsburgh Thunder Nationals. The storm clouds were gathering as we drove out there, but the rain held off for the morning. RVs and trailers were scattered across the Park, and shortly after we arrived, cars started lining up for the elimination rounds. Each race starts with the dramatic "burnout", where each car revs its engines and lays down some rubber. Then they both back up to the starting line, and wait for the light to turn green (known as a "Christmas tree" in the biz). I really wish I had read this wikipedia article before I went on Sunday, because I would have understood the specifics of the different races. Nonetheless, I was able to appreciate the awe-inspiring mechanical feats achieved by these drivers and their teams. There is nothing like seeing two cars barrel down a straight-away at 170 mph. We didn't take the big video camera, but did manage to capture the essence of this event with the regular camera, which has some small video recording abilities.



Given enough time, M and I will walk pretty much anywhere, as evidenced by our voluntary choice to walk across half the country. For fun.

But I know not everybody is into such an extreme form of pedestrian movement. With gas prices rising, it has become very fashionable to talk about alternative forms of transportation. But over the past fifty years we've created some very auto-dependent communities, and walkability is not something most people consider high on their priority list when choosing a place to live. Walkscore is a website that judges neighborhoods based on how many errands and recreation can be done on foot.

Here is my score for Bloomfield. My neighborhood is deemed a

"Walkers' Paradise: Most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people get by without owning a car. "

What's your score?


Pirates 10-Astros 7-Kids 0

Mark had the brilliant idea of going to a baseball game this evening. Undeterred by the monsoon-like rain of the afternoon, we planned to have a picnic dinner of hot dogs and saurkraut, bike downtown to pick up some peanuts at Nicholas, and then head over to get our Buy-One-Get-One tickets. But as I was preparing our (vegetarian) dogs, I discovered they had an interesting moldy growth on them. This was disappointing, since we are always looking for ways to consume our homemade saurkraut. Also, yesterday, M had baked bread in the shape of hot dog rolls for the express purpose of eating these hot dogs. No matter, I headed down to meet M at his office. But when I got there, I realized that I had left the coupon for the tickets at home. This was very bad because we had only a limited time to get to Nicholas before they closed. And, oddly, it is very difficult to get good, unsalted peanuts at the ballpark. To save time, we split up. Back to Bloomfield I went to pick up the coupon, and M biked downtown via the Panther Hollow trail and got those peanuts just in time. Then there was the matter of dinner. We settled on Primanti Brothers where there is exactly one vegan item, the Garden Patch Salad. This is basically iceberg lettuce with french fries on top. I know, not the most nutritious, but we had all those peanuts for protein.

Finally we made it to the game. There were some, err, enthusiastic, youths sitting behind us. Sometimes shouting is good, especially in the upper decks, but they were shouting things like "Let's go Pens!", which apparently bothered somebody, and it was soon revealed that they had smuggled in some Natty Ice. They were quickly escorted away by security. Since they never returned to their seats, I assume somebody called their moms. Or took them to jail. I have to wonder, kids, was it worth it to have a can of watery beer?

After that, we settled in for some action packed baseball. The headline on the Pirates website pretty much describes the game, "Pirates seize slugfest from Astros!". After all that sitting, it was nice to bike home in the cool, evening air.

It Seemed Like a Bargain at the Time...

Twenty-five pounds of organic soy beans, that is. We bought them from Frankferd Farms out in Saxonburg, PA, a while ago, when we anticipated making a lot more soy-based hiking meals. Well, we used a fair amount of them, but twenty-five pounds of anything is a lot for a two-person family. One of the best ways to use soy beans is to make soy milk and tofu. We've searched high and low for recipes, many of which seem to call for complicated milk-making contraptions. We like this one the best for simplicity and quality. You need beans, water, a pot, a blender, and something to strain them through (porous fabric). Here is the finished soy milk, along with the still ample supply of dried beans.


Independence Day

It's that time of year again, the anniversary of the day that M and I met, now 12 years ago. We were kids and had no idea what lay ahead. Well, young men now call me "ma'am", but I can't say age has cleared up the mystery of What Will Come Next. In fact, it seems to get even more mysterious every year! I have now known M for a solid 41% of my entire life, and for 100% of my adult life. We are like two trees that started out as separate saplings, but are now twin trunks, roots intertwined. Fitting that we should have met on this day, as we are rather independent-minded people. Miracle that two people as stubborn as ourselves could have etched out this life together. But here we are.


Public Service Announcements 65-67

We visited three schools in Gulu, and one of the things that stood out in my mind were the many PSA-type signs that were posted around the school. Two things struck me about them...one, the abundance of these signs...they were everywhere. Two, the messages were of a different nature. Of course, there were the familiar, "don't do drugs" kind of signs that I have seen in U.S. schools. But there many signs about avoiding sex to prevent AIDS, and not accepting money for sex. And this is basically the equivalent of elementary school.

This one is my favorite. I think I will make a copy and hang it in my next classroom. Of course, in Uganda it is sometimes a bit more of a challenge to make sure all the students are reading and writing, as there are not enough textbooks for everyone, and more than a few students come to school without a notebook or a pencil. But in general, I think this is a concept lost on many educators....kids have to actually do real and relevant work with text in order to become literate. It is not enough to fill in a worksheet or answer questions written on the chalkboard. This will, in fact, prepare them for employment (I hold to my assertion that many jobs that require 'education' are basically filling in Worksheets for Grownups), but it does not prepare them to be thoughtful and productive citizens. This is why, on the advent of yet another foreign war, we see very few people protesting, or even questioning the leadership of our nation. This is why, despite the money that pours into developing nations from investors and NGOs, very little of it gets to those in need, and even less of it leads to long-term, sustainable improvement.

I have been doing a lot of reading on East Africa during the past couple of days (oh, to be unemployed!), and it is very interesting to reread some of these essays and books after having seen just a little bit of the reality on the ground. In Uganda, as in most of the world, most people have limited access to credit and therefore have to save up all the money they need for something before purchasing it. What would your life be like if you had to do the same thing? Probably you would not be able to afford college, your house, or your car. These things are pretty universally financed through credit.