photo of Kelly

The beginning and end photos from my 30-day DietBet. You can’t see much, if any, difference, but I can feel it!

Like so many women–and you know what? It’s not even a woman-thing. Like so many people, it is always my desire to just drop a few pounds. A month ago, I got back on the horse. I began going to the gym again three or four times a week. A couple of weeks ago, I figured out an alternative bike route to my office that is a little further but which I can ride in the same amount of time. I toned down some of my consumption habits. I joined a 30-day DietBet game.

Let’s start with the DietBet. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a website where you pay money into a multi-person game to bet that you will be able to lose a certain amount of weight. You win by meeting the target, and the pot is split by everyone who made it. For the 30-day game I just completed, the goal was to lose 4%. For me, that was 8 pounds (3.6 kg). I’m not going to lie–I joined that particular DietBet because Karina Smirnoff was the host. You know how much I love Dancing with the Stars!

I went to the gym regularly for the first few months of last year and it felt great! I dislike running, but trotting on the treadmill has kind of become my thing since I discovered the Couch to 5K business two or three years ago. It only takes a couple of weeks for me to begin seeing and feeling the difference, so that’s my approach every time I start over. I fell off the wagon (er, treadmill?) when I went on vacation last July and spent the next three-quarters of a year subsidizing other people’s memberships. But my weight also crept up to the highest it’s ever been, and so finally last month I started going again and have managed to get back in the good habit.

Feeling the inspiration on foot, I also try to bike a little more, too. From about March through about October, or for as long as the snow holds off, I bike commute to work every day, a 15-minute ride through the heart of downtown. I don’t really think of it as exercise, even though it is, and so have been trying to go out for a long ride at least once on the weekends, and a medium ride in the evening every now and then if it’s not too hot.

Perhaps you are a fan of the NFL (National Football League) and know that the Minnesota Vikings are building a brand new stadium where the Metrodome stood until last year. I guess it’s going to resemble a giant, glass Viking ship. All I really know is that they didn’t spring for bird-safe glass. We’ll see how that plays out. The area of downtown adjacent to the stadium site is also going through a major redevelopment, and shiny new office buildings are rising from the backhoed rubble of a number of former surface parking lots.

Well. All of this construction activity has wreaked havoc on the very streets that I use every day in my commute. There are closures and detours which, unless I want to go significantly out of my way in one direction or, in the other direction, ride on a busy artery with cars only thinking about the freeway access a half mile ahead. Even the quieter alternative a couple of blocks beyond that is under its own construction of a sewer project. There is no good way to bike that particular vector.

Thus, I finally broke down and tried the route that takes me along the Mississippi River bike path to a bike commuter trail to the western suburbs. I can enter and exit within blocks of home and the office. I had balked at using it because it is a longer distance, and when I’m commuting, I’m all about not wasting time. But it turns out that, even though it’s 3.25 miles versus the 2.5 miles (5.2 km vs 4 km) of the downtown route, it doesn’t take me any more time because there are only a couple of interactions with streets and I don’t usually have to stop even once, and I can just go. Riding this route for the first time was an epiphany! It’s easier, it’s so much less stressful, it’s scenic, and the longer distance fits in with my increased activity desires.

photo of several meals

These are a few of the quick (usually about 30 minutes to prepare), delicious, home-cooked meals I’ve been making.

The final component of the last month has been to be more mindful of when and how much I’m consuming. For me, the largest part of that is to cut back on the beer. Instead of three or four, I try to keep it to a couple. And instead of my favorite double IPA or big stout, I often choose ones with lower alcohol content. Along with that is the realization that it also helps to eat a lighter supper earlier rather than later. Gorging on a burger at the bar is a whole lot different than freshly preparing a meal of more sensible foods (that I actually like better anyway). A staple has been a few ounces of salmon, a pile of asparagus, and one-half cup or less of a whole grain, such as quinoa or my new favorite, farro. I have resumed documenting everything that goes down my gullet in the Lose It! app. I don’t necessarily try to meet the calorie budget that it suggests, but the act of tracking eventually causes you to more carefully consider your choices.

So doing all of these things consistently for the last five weeks paid off. I surpassed my DietBet target and lost 8.8 pounds (4 kg), and won $49.68 on my $30 bet! My stamina has increased so much from the treadmill trotting and wobbly bits are coming a little more under control. Mainly, I just feel better and that is very satisfying. The knowledge that this happens when I keep up with things is what gets me through the afternoons when I’d rather just go home (okay, that, and that I’ve been watching 30 Rock while I trot to distract myself).

But it’s my desk-neighbor at work who put the extra little spring in my step today. She’s 23 and just out of college, where she was a competitive swimmer and is still someone who you would call an athlete. A couple of weeks ago I was moaning about being sore from my first session of strength training the day before and we had a brief conversation about my activities at the gym. Well, today she asked me how it all was going and was astonished when I said I had gone fourteen times last month. We talked a little more and I mentioned that I had lost about 7 pounds (3.2 kg). In response she uttered the five words at the top of the page and that is the most gratifying and motivating thing of all!

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Addendum: Because I want to keep the momentum going, I joined another DietBet game. This one goes on for six months with a final target of a 10% loss. There are monthly official weigh-ins with their own mini-targets, and you can win those, too. I tried one last year with little success, but I feel like I have a better attitude now. Stay tuned!

Why do I torture myself year after year? I willingly go to a place where I get to hang out with 150,000 of my closest friends. I spend a hot summer day outside in the sun. I tolerate waiting in long lines for the ladies room. I eat battered, deep-fried, junky food. What is this torture? Why, the Great Minnesota Get-Together, of course!

Any self-respecting Minnesotan will trek to the Minnesota State Fair at least once each year. I have friends who go multiple times. Take my friend Jen A, for example, whose husband is in the Army. They got stationed in Guam for three years. A year ago he left a month before Jen. Jen waited until after the Fair. And when has she come back for a visit? To coincide with the Fair. She has been there just about every day. I don’t know how she does it. I go for a few hours and I’m done in. Think I’m joking about attendance of 150,000? Look at this. And I went on the last Sunday. The last Sunday usually goes over 200,000.

These just in:

Quotes from Jen (which I include because I truly am impressed by your desire, determination, and stamina, and I know you were doing what you love to do): 1) “After a 15.5 hour day yesterday, I’ve logged 67 hours at the fair this year. A record for me. One day to go. (Sunday).” 2) “My last day at the fair. 16 hours for a total of 83 hours over 6 days. That’ll do.”

2014 State Fair breaks all-time attendance record. Thank goodness I didn’t go on Saturday, attendance 252,092.

So this is the fun I had at the fair.

photo of overheated Kelly

When I bike to the fair, I am hot and miserable before I even pass through the gate.

Biking to the fair.

Just like going to the fair at all, biking to it always seems like a good idea before I do it. It’s a four-and-a-half-mile ride, most of which is on a dedicated bike- and busway. Easy route, but even if the temperature isn’t too hot, I get overheated. So I’m at a disadvantage before I even get through the gate.

I should also mention that the fair encourages you to not take your car. As could benefit me, there are three bike corrals. Unfortunately they are at the three corners of the grounds other than the one where the transitway spits me out. Getting to a bike corral adds a half-mile onto my ride. But I’m glad they have them because it takes a lot of the thinking out of arriving at the Fair.

Anyway, I had a couple of personal connections at the fair.

Personal connections and vegetables in general.

My coworker’s grandmother enters vegetables every year. And she wins every year. Look at those Yukon gold potatoes! Jen (a different Jen) helped harvest those winners. And since I love vegetables, you get a photo of the west wall of the Horticulture Building. And who wouldn’t be impressed by giant pumpkins, Charlie Brown?

photo of potatoes

Blue ribbon Yukon Gold potatoes dug up and sorted by my coworker, grown by her grandmother.

photo of giant pumpkin

It’s the Great Pumpkin!

panoramic photo of vegetables

These are a few of my favorite vegetables.

photo of Larry's painting

A little purple goes a long way.

I also managed to find my nextdoor neighbor Larry’s painting in the Fine Arts building. As my mentor Chris Gargan always said, a little purple goes a long way. Or was that John Ribble? It was twenty+ years ago.

photo of mini-donut beer

Mini-donuts! In beer form!

Beer.

Natch, it didn’t take me long to acquire beer. Unlike last year, Lift Bridge Brewery made PLENTY of their Mini-Donut Brown Ale. It sounds so wrong, but it works. This year there was also a s’mores beer replete with a floating marshmallow, and a lager that came with blueberry frozen foam.

photo of Kelly with beer

Kelly visits a beer exhibit. Yes, a beer exhibit.

A great thing about the Minnesota State Fair is that it keeps up with the times. Whether it’s an evening of Minnesota bands, sponsored by The Current, or craft beer, the fair is all over it. Back by popular demand for the third year, was the Land of 10,000 Brews exhibit, also in the Horticulture Building. This is where there are six options for four-beer flight from Minnesota breweries. The selections vary daily. Sometimes there’s fancy stuff, but mostly it’s a way to support our burgeoning craft beer industry.

[Update from the interim between writing and posting: Some asshole robbed the exhibit at gunpoint a couple hours after the Fair closed for the year. Armed robbery of over $10,000.]

photo of double-wide stroller

Does she look like she’s actually having fun?

Major annoyances.

I’m pretty sure I ranted about this last year, too, and every year before that. If it’s not old enough to walk under its own power, it’s most likely not old enough to really comprehend, and therefore actually enjoy, what is going on at the fair, and should therefore be left at home. Your doublewide stroller isn’t doing anybody, and I mean anybody, least of all you, any favors. Tell the truth. Do you actually enjoy pushing that thing through the throng, having to constantly apologize to the crowd around you for needing non-standard space accommodation, the crowd which is already annoyed by the rest of the crowd? Are you having fun when the tot is screaming because it wants cotton candy, or is over-stimulated, or is over-tired? And when it falls asleep, well, what was the point anyway?

photo of parade float

It’s a parade. Yay.

While we’re on the subject of hindrances to the already crowd-hindering crowd, what about the daily parade? I guess some people watch it, but it seems like it’s mostly meaderers scattering to the curbs to make way. I find it particularly purturbing because on either side of the street it goes down are some of the things I’m most interested in, such as the aforementioned Horticulture Building and the abeermentioned Ballpark Cafe, from whence the Mini-Donut Brown Ale (and many other fine, Minnesota brews) is served, and because I always manage to encounter it. I just want to cross the damned street. Call me a chicken if you must, apropos to the fair.

photo of Kelly with a Pronto Pup

It’s a Pronto Pup. Or is it a corndog. Huh?

Fair food.

Unless you live in a cave, you’ve likely heard of all the any-state’s fair food you can get on a stick. Minnesota’s fair does food on a stick like no other. However, I mostly avoid it. Battered, deep-fried delights are so far from how I typically eat that it doesn’t take much of it to do me in. But I’ll always get a corndog. I don’t like weiners but I love me a corndog. I am a poor Minnesotan because I’m still not sure exactly what the difference is between a corndog and a Pronto Pup. What I do know is that this year I got a Pronto Pup rather than a corndog and I didn’t like it as well. I think a Pronto Pup is more of a batter batter while a corndog is more of a cornbread batter. Next year I shall go back to the corndog.

photo of Kelly eating corn on the cob

Corn!

What never disappoints is the roasted corn on the cob. Minnesota sweetcorn, grilled in the husk. ’Nuff said. Oh, except for that they compost all the discarded cobs.

 

photo of weather radar progression

How much time do I have?

Weather, more beer, more food.

All afternoon I felt like I had blown it with regard to the weather. The day before, Saturday, was a little less warm, a little less humid, less unsettled. Sunday started out overcast and not-warm, but of course by the time I got pedaling the sun came out and the dewpoint started creeping up. The forecast was for a clear afternoon with rain and thunder likely in the evening. It approached more quickly.

photo of Kelly and cutout of Mark Stutrud

Hanging out with Summit Brewing founder, Mark Stutrud. Well, a reasonable facsimile of him, anyway.

I made my move in the direction of the exit when I figured, based on radar panel number three, that I had about forty-five minutes before the heavens would open. I need about twenty-five for the bike ride. Fortunately, the main Summit Brewing counter, in the International Bazaar, is right on the way to the entrance I use next to the bike corral. Summit had a fair-only brew this year, but it was not on offer on Sunday (unless it was at an auxiliary location). Nevertheless, I ordered one of the beers that was available and participated in what was their genius marketing ploy for the fair, taking a selfie with the life-sized cutout of founder Mark Stutrud. I have actually hung out with Mark several times in person, so this was a little weird, and yet, necessary.

photo of tacos

Tacos al pastore y asada.

I had just about decided that I was out of weather-time and had every intention of heading out, when I was dazzled again by what had caught my attention on the way in, tacos from Los Ocampo. I wasn’t exactly hungry, but wanted to eat, and figured that if I ate a little more at the fair, that would be enough for the day. I went for one each of the al pastore and the asada. The nice people sitting on the bench next to me approved of my choice (having vast, it seemed, experience at one of Los Ocampos’ restaurant locations) and gave me a piece of their fried plantains. It was all very good.

photo of approaching weather

Hopefully I’ll beat this home.

I finally, finally, uncorraled my bike and headed home, a little later than I meant to. On the other hand, it wasn’t already raining so I knew whatever happened, I wouldn’t get it too bad. As it was, I only got spritzed on during the second half of the ride. I got home and took my second full shower of the day. I tied my hair up in a different way that proved to be a beneficial way, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the fair.

I hate this bike!

August 28, 2014

photo of loaner bike

This looks like a perfectly wonderful bicycle. Appearances can be deceiving.

A year ago, I got a new rear wheel for my bicycle and ever since it’s been one broken spoke after another, by which I mean three. But that’s there more than I had in fifteen years with the original-equipment old wheel. A month ago I had a two and now it’s in the shop again with another one. Fortunately, the shop to which I’ve been going, One On One, has excellent customer service and they bend over backwards to make things right with no hassle. When I walked in this time the manager (I assume he’s the manager) immediately remembered without prompting that I had just been in a few weeks ago. He offered to sell me at cost (about half of retail) a sturdier rim with thicker spokes. Okay!

Only trouble is, the loaner bike they stuck me with this time is a real plonker. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic that they do loaner bikes and I’m grateful that I can keep riding. But of the three different bikes I’ve had in the last year, this one is THE WORST.

I enjoyed the bike a year ago. I particularly liked the handle grips and subsequently got similar ones for my bike to replace the original grips which I had worn smooth. The bike a month ago I didn’t like so well. That was mainly because of handlebars that were shaped and placed such that my thigh would block them whenever I tried to make a turn any sharper than a gentle arc. When I saw the current bike I was leery of its handlebars which appeared suspiciously similar, but they turned out to be okay.

photo of loaner bike's basket

I’ve seen all manner of basket on people’s bikes. I am not a fan of this front-mounted, metal crate. It seems to be original equipment of this model.

No, the beef I have with this bike is the basket. Look at it. It’s a monstrous metal crate. It makes for very front-heavy balance, which has taken some getting used to (I’m on day four with the bike). The shop guy touted it as a feature and boasted that he once carried four large pizzas in/on it. But more annoyingly, this mega-basket makes it practically impossible to maneuver through a doorway without banging and bashing the door and the frame. I have to go through two doors at home and two at the office. That’s a lot of bangers and mash (yes, yes, I know what bangers and mash really is).

photo of spring on loaner bike

Have you every seen one of these springs before? Neither have I. You must be really incompetent if you need that much help going in a straight line.

The balance issue is exacerbated by a weird feature I’ve never heard of in a bicycle. A strong spring joins the front wheel to the frame. This apparently is to help keep the wheel straight. Is this bike model for people who can’t grasp the basics of steering? Is it for people who really dig rid no-handed? I don’t get it. What the spring does for me, in combination with the front-mounted crate, is to make my steering go all wobbly when I remove my left hand from the handlebars to signal a turn. And while we’re on the subject, you do not signal a right turn by sticking out your right arm. You signal a right turn by up-bending your left arm at the elbow. Similarly, when I am properly signaling my right turn and you, the pedestrian, are standing on the corner looking at me, I am not waving hello to you. You’d be surprised how frequently either of these scenarios occurs.

But I digress.

A minor quibble is that the loaner bike only has eight gears. It’s true I’ve always said that I don’t need the twenty-one speeds that my own bike has because I only use four or five of them. But that many speeds allows for subtlety, I have realized. The difference on the loaner between the easy gear that I use for accelerating and the next, harder one seems vast by comparison.

The shop is waiting for the new wheel to come in. That won’t be soon enough for me.

photo of loaner bike

My cat picked out my sushi

August 21, 2014

Mackerel and sea bream cat food

Last Sunday, the Open Streets folks did one near my neighborhood. Open Streets is when a stretch of a road is closed to cars for a day and non-motorized folks get to go nuts on it. I’d been aware of previous events but hadn’t made it to one, so I was excited that I’d have to put forth minimum effort to attend this one.

But to be perfectly honest, the day was one of extreme relative humidity—something gross, like, the dew point was 69F and the air temperature was 71F (21C/22C). I had texted my bikey friend, Jon, at noon to inquire whether he would be toodling over, then stuck my big toe out the front door and immediately decided I wasn’t going out in that, and settled in to watch some Grand Hotel.* After the second episode I decided I at least needed to take a shower because, even inside in air conditioning, I was feeling sticky and yucky. I stood up, checked my phone, and realized that Jon had replied in the affirmative almost right away. I texted him, thinking I’d be lucky if he was still out. I was very lucky because not only was he still out but he was at my end of the two mile stretch of the open street.

Well, fine. I hated the thought of going out in that weather, yet knew I’d regret it if I didn’t finally check out such a convenient Open Streets, and knew I’d appreciate a shower more after I returned home. I met him in the beer garden in the parking lot of my local liquor store.

Dear Open Streets,
I ride my bike back and forth to work every day across two vectors of downtown, Victor. I thought suburban SUV-driving commuters who can’t think outside the car were the bane of my existence. Not so. In that one tiny ride during your event, one-half mile to a neighborhood business I often bike to anyway, I realized that, really, pedestrianing parents with cherubic children are far, far worse. No cars on the street? No motors to listen for to give us audio cues as to how to behave in common space? No problem. No trajectory is too weavy for us to wobble along. I’m riding a bicycle? I might as well be a semi-truck hurtling toward your Croc-shod toddler. You sneer in my general direction.

Ugh.

Beer and band gardenIn hindsight I’m very glad that, when I found Jon and said that I wouldn’t mind riding to the other end and back, he informed me that he had already done so twice and was just going to order another beer. Here’s to neighborhood brewery Harriet Brewing’s Woden Weizen!

Being the humid, unsettled weather it was, the sky soon unleashed another round of showers. Jon and I gamely stood in the rain because, let’s face it, neither of us is fancy, and it felt good. Unlike previous showers that day, though, this one lasted for more than three-and-a-half minutes. It wasn’t bad for us spectators but unfortunately for the band that was playing, the tent-shelter that was protecting them decided to let loose into the keyboard its load of water. That put a damper on the vibe.

But I digress.

I quipped to Jon that I’d still be willing to ride to the other end but he came up with a far better idea. I’m finally getting to the sushi portion of the story.

Across from the liquor store is a fairly new Thai restaurant which also has a sushi bar. It’s really like two restaurants in one. Jon said, nah, let’s just go to Sober Fish and engage in their happy hour. Okay, twist my arm, Croc-shod toddlers!

Lagunitas IPA and Sober Fish shot glassI was glad when he suggested ordering sushi items rather than Thai noodle stuff (which I do like but I was more in the mood for sushi). I was also glad when I saw Lagunitas IPA on the fairly short beer list. Lagunitas IPA goes well with raw fish things. Then I was horrified when he seemed eager to also order the house shot which consisted of cucumber vodka, ginger something, and something else. In the old days I did enjoy my vodka tonic, and in these new days I mix my Pimm’s with cucumber soda (during the two weeks of Wimbledon). Then I saw that you got to keep the shot glass.** I wasn’t too hard a sell on that, then, either.

The drinks were the easy part. It turned out that I like rolls and Jon likes sashimi. Also, we had never collaborated on a food order before so there was that awkwardness, “what do you like?” “Oh, no, what do YOU like?” I’m finally getting to the cat part of the story.

Jon made a hard sell for mackerel sashimi. I countered with advocating for spicy tuna roll. I like that a lot, and when I eat at a new sushi place it’s sort of my benchmark. Not too sophisticated in the big scheme of things but there you go. We decided we’d order both forms.

There were many sashimi choices. Tuna is my favorite raw fish in general, but I’ll always try anything once. Not that mackerel is so exotic. It’s not. Then I comprehended some of the other choices on the sashimi list and formed my opinion as to what else we should select.

As I said, Jon was a big fan of mackerel. I saw that sea bream was also on the list. So I said yes to the mackerel and suggested the sea bream as well.

Why? This is why.

A while ago I decided to bite the bullet on cost and serve my lovely cats wet food because it’s significantly better for their health than dry food. I like to get them the tuna-based kinds, and the tuna almost always includes some other seafood as an accent. The canned food ain’t cheap so I’ve been determining the best balance between ingredients and cost. Along the way I added a third cat, thereby half-againing the cat food budget, so I could no longer afford to buy the tiny cans of best-quality, tuna-based food and instead have had to figure out what’s next best.

I’ve settled on a couple of brands, one of which is pictured above. The store carries four varieties—shrimp (30¢ more per can), sardine, mackerel, and sea bream. Sea-what? Never heard of it.

Empty platesWe ordered my spicy tuna roll and also a caterpillar roll because Jon likes eel, and I like that sweet sauce that usually accompanies it. For sashimi we ordered the mackerel and, as our second sashimi selection at my behest, the sea bream. Do you see where I’m going with this?

My decision-making process: if it’s good enough for the cats, it’s good enough for me. Let’s go for it!

The mackerel was salty and firm and reminded me of smoked salmon or smoked trout. The sea bream was at the opposite end of the spectrum—tender, mild, and nutty. Jon hadn’t had it either and seemed pleasantly surprised by it.

I am embarrassed to admit that it was Jon and not I who said/thought, “This would make a good blog entry.” By that time, the sea bream and mackerel were long gone and we were down to one gyoza.

 

* If, by chance, you start watching Grand Hotel based on this brief mention, stick with it long enough to realize that Inspector Ayala reminds you exactly and completely of Hercule Poirot, which won’t actually take you that long. You will be richly rewarded in episode 23.

** Until that Sober Fish outing, I didn’t actually possess a shot glass. What I do have is a set of four antique aperitif, shot-sized glasses. But they’re delicate, textured glass. They were my grandparents’, and I’m always terrified that it will take only one gentle yet errant tap on the side of the Mason jar into which I mix my Wimbledon Pimm’s to shatter it to pieces. It was an easy sell to convince me order a shot that would resulting my owning a chunky, heavy-duty, actual shot glass. I guess the shot was okay. It was not much like cucumber or ginger, very sweet, and Ecto-Cooler green. One could get into trouble with them …

The bike room

July 26, 2012

Sophie_dsc00058

Six or seven years ago, my office relocated a block and a half away. We had to do this because our landlord signed a new, higher-falutin’ tenant and they wanted the whole floor. But what the landlord had to do in return was move us to a “comparable” space. We gained a couple of things and we lost a couple of things. I’m still not sure how they balance each other out.

Yes I am. At the old space we could bring our dogs to work. My bosses had Sophie, a completely wonderful, goofy, lazy Airedale. Most of the time she laid around like a lump, but whatever she was doing or not doing, she’d make you smile and make the office a more pleasant place.

We could also not only bring our bicycles into the building, but up to the space. In our current building we can do neither.

But we are closer to the heart of downtown. We are closer and we are in a building that is connected to the skyway, that system of hamster trails that shelters us delicate Minnesotans from the elements during the winters that we know to expect. We can walk to lunch spots five minutes faster. I like that.

Img_006341

The tough adjustment for me was having to leave my bike outside on the street. There are lovely, sturdy hitching posts in front of the building but I wasn’t used to having to worry whether passing thugs would vandalize it merely because it was Tuesday. Of course nothing has happened, and in the ensuing years I’ve gotten over any misgivings I originally had. If the weather is going to be rainy, there’s a building around the corner with a bike rack under an overhang. Because my bike is a delicate flower that doesn’t like getting wet, you know.

Recently, there has been a turn of events. We still can’t bring dogs to the office, but a new tenant apparently got it written into the lease that an indoor bike parking area would be provided from which we all benefit. I still usually leave my bike outside, but it’s nice to know it’s there for unsettled days.

I guess it’s part of the character and charm of our 1885 building that the room is quirky and dungeon-like.

Bike_room

Every place I go within my little five-mile radius has been under construction this summer. Doesn’t matter whether I’m driving, biking or walking. Construction and detours. 

There are many lane shifts and traffic pattern changes in my home neighborhood as the city’s second light rail line makes its path through. The front way, the back way, it’s all disrupted. Going in the opposite direction, a mystery project on Interstate 94 creates other problems. The way to my favorite beer store is detoured.

And now the off-road bike path on the home end of my work commute is detoured because that’s where the new rail line comes in to join the existing one. I haven’t been able to find information about whether that will be a permanent situation. In order for the bike path to reopen, there would have to be little bridge over the train tracks and I’m guessing that’s not part of the plan.

The mile and three-quarters between home and work has been a constant obstacle course. It would seem that every street downtown is being shaved down and resurfaced this summer. My bike route to work is one of those streets, so I now enjoy nice, smooth blacktop where it had been cement, seamed, cracked, and pitted. And most excitingly, a bike lane is now marked where previously it had just been an extra-wide driving lane.

Bike_helmet_blog

In addition to the stripes there is, of course, a pictogram biking dude (or dudette). The first few times I rode over them I thought, wow, the fresh, white paint really contrasts with the fresh black asphalt. Then I realized why I was really paying extra attention. Safety has come to the bike lane pictogram. The dude (or dudette) either has a flattop afro, or that’s a bike helmet. A bike helmet on the pictogram! It has been weeks since I comprehended it and I still get a giant kick out of it.

Bike_blocks_blog

Being the over-documentarian that I am, I began to notice and photograph other bike lane pictograms that I encounter. On a street near the riverfront that has recently been tarred and chipped, I kept seeing these blocky shapes (left). I thought, oh that’s cute, somebody graffitied abstract skyscraper shapes on the road. After seeing three or four of them, duh, it’s in preparation for a biking dude (or dudette). The bike lanes to and from the grocery store already had theirs (right).

Bike_old-new_blog

The bike trail between my home light rail station and the grocery store (I continued on to the store on my way home after work) had some faded, older, stenciled ones (left) in which the biking dude (or dudette) was riding a bike with zeroes for tires and wearing cargo pants. On some newer pavement, though, the biking dude (or dudette) was very modern indeed, sporting a rounded helmet and riding what appears to be a “comfort” bike.

Bike_route_blog

The bike lane on the street was helpfully marked with a sign letting me know that should I wish to bike after a snowfall, it would be a good route to take.

Me, right now

September 18, 2010

Me_now_blog

Take a photo of yourself right now! Even though I looked pretty rough, I regret that I censored (and deleted) my very first “right now” this morning. But I was embarrassed by the result of too much beer and too little sleep last night.

Instead you get my second, third, and fourth right nows. I came back to the camera after I had had my shower this morning and was feeling clean, if not a little fresher than half an hour earlier. I tried to get my cat CJ to join me but she was too busy buttering me up for her breakfast to pose nicely.

During the day, some people posted followup photos to their first ones, and in the seventh inning of the Minnesota Twins baseball game at Target Field tonight, I decided that would be the perfect scene for another shot. You can see that I and 40,000 of my closest friends are enjoying ourselves, despite the Twins’ subsequent loss to the Oakland A’s.

The weather was iffy today, and if there’s a chance it will rain, I park my bike at a nearby building under its overhang for shelter. (My office and Target Field are within a few blocks of each other so I just leave my bike where it is when I go to a game.) I guess because it’s a utility company they have good security, including a camera that monitors the front where the bike rack is. And something in its software motion detects and draws a red box around the mover. That’s me! I find it a little creepy that it can do that, but at the same time, sometimes I dance around a little just to see how the square changes size. I had snapped this picture to share my thoughts about it elsewhere, then couldn’t resist also sharing it with the other right nowers.

And now to bed so that I won’t have to be embarrassed two mornings in a row.

p.s. Check out the Me, Right Now Flickr group.