a left-eyed girl

living in a 2 dimensional world

Archive for March 2010

Bridge and Tunnel

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Blue rides the train

I take the commuter train just about every day to get to work. It’s part of the routine. I have my regular bike car people who take the train with me everyday, and it’s nice getting to know the same people. It’s even simpler for me since I ride in the bike car (one of only two on the train), so I tend to see the same people everyday.

My parents were bridge-and-tunnel folks since they both worked in NYC and we lived in New Jersey. They always talked about people they met on the train or bus or ferry. In fact, one of our oldest family friends is someone that my dad met on the bus. Funny how stuff like that happens.

One morning, a man walked hesitantly into the bike car, spotted me and another commuter sitting in the back, approached us cautiously, and asked us what the procedure is for bringing his bike on the train. We told him it’s all pretty simple. You bring your bike on, make sure you have a destination tag saying where you’re getting off, stack your bike on top of another bike that is going to your destination or further, and use the bungee to secure it so it doesn’t bounce around too much.

Easy, like the pie.

He said he was going to bring his bike on the train the next day. This is really encouraging, because I love hearing about people who want to try taking their bikes on the train to get to work since it can simplify commutes a great deal. I love just sitting on the train and reading, listening to music, or chatting with other commuters.

Written by Reese

March 31, 2010 at 9:48 am

Posted in just life

Five on Friday: Week 12

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A lot has happened since last Friday, so I’ll get straight into it.

1. Spur of the moment road trip
The Mister and I decided to drive out to Sacramento to visit one of his high school buddies and generally wander around the area. It was pretty fun and we got to eat at the Sudwerks Brewery. They have pretty good food and beers.

2. Hello, Doctor!
I visited the doctor’s for an annual checkup (um, quasi-annual actually because the last time I was there was three years ago). He checked me out, asked a bunch of questions, and ordered a slew of blood tests for me. I asked for EVERY test that was relevant and free to go with my ridiculous copay. Might as well get whatever I can out of it, right?

The nice thing about my hospital is that it’s pretty efficient and my test results are posted online so I can go view them and compare past results any time I want. For anyone who cares, my blood pressure is totally normal at 117/65, heart rate measured at about 52bpm, and all the stats from my blood workup were within the normal range, except for red blood cell count, which was a bit on the low side.

Oh, and I also got a Tdap vaccine shot, which continues to make my arm pretty damned sore, but it’s almost gone. Bring on the rusty metal!!

3. The long way home
Last week, I decided that I would increase the number of times I ride home to twice a week. So far, so good. I’ve been taking either Central Expy or Evelyn/Monroe, but this week I plotted out a new route taking Foothill Expy to Homestead.

This route tacks on about 2-3 miles to my regular distance, but it sure is a nice ride that I’m sure I will try again next week. I rode it Tuesday after work and found that the nice thing about this route is that it is chock-full o’ cyclists, mostly of the scuba variety. A lot of them were really friendly, saying "hello" as they flew past me.

I rode home again on Thursday, but stopped in Sunnyvale to attend a Sports Basement party that one of the SJF guys won (more on that later), so I rode about 10 miles, stopped, and then rode the other 8 miles after snacks. Definitely not the same as riding the whole distance at once, but it was a nice ride nonetheless.

4. A slippery slope
Hey guess what. It finally happened. I’ve managed to buy my very first pair of spandex bike shorts! I don’t know if I should congratulate myself or be very, very afraid of myself.

I couldn’t help it! I attended a Sports Basement party that I mentioned above and it means that they give you snacks and beer for free and you get a 20% discount on anything in the store. Sounds like a good deal right? Of course, I planned exactly what I was going to get before the party happened, and I went straight for the bike gloves, portable pumps, and shorts.

As soon as I got home, I showed them to the Mister and tried them on for him. We both agree that I look hot in them. And now I can plan a 20+ mile ride and be comfortable. Done and done.

5. A wonderful sunshiny outlook on life
Finally, I must say that I am very appreciative this past week for everyone and everything in my life that has helped with my incessantly positive outlook on life. I tend to be a naturally optimistic person, but it sure helps to have good friends like J & J & N & A who let me bounce random photo/bikey/life questions off them and who allow me a quiet view inside their lives as well. I feel appreciative for people who not only listen to me wax on about my life, but also let me peek into theirs as well. It’s a give and take system.

And of course thanks, Mister, for cheering me up when I’m down, distracting the cat from attacking me by offering himself as a decoy, rubbing my back and shoulders when I ride too far and am stiff from my death-grip on the handlebars, and just generally being his goal-oriented self. It sure helps us get stuff done. Yay teamwork!

Written by Reese

March 26, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in just life

Film and the doctor

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You know that feeling when you just want something new? Well, I’ve got that right now for a new camera. What I really want is a no-frills compact camera that can make good exposures in different light conditions. My Nikon FM2n does a good job of this, but it’s not very compact and light. I’ve tried to do the compact digital camera route, but I’ve felt the insane need for film lately.

Of course, this would all be useless if I ended up buying a new camera and not using it, so I’m going through a test phase where I try to get back in the habit of using 35mm film again. I ordered a bunch of Legacy Pro 400 from Freestyle and have already shot through half a roll on Sunday during an impromptu road trip. I’m really glad I got it since it’s been a while since I’ve shot 35mm and it’s starting to become fun again!

What I’m really hoping will happen is that I’ll fall in love with my gorgeous FM2n again and not have to buy myself a completely new camera. Maybe I can just focus on getting myself a new lens instead.

Hospital visit
I visited the doctor and was declared very healthy! Actually, it will take a few days before my blood test results are available, but everything else looked great. The nurse that took my blood pressure said it was "really, really good" (117/65), and I was glad my heart rate is still quite low (52bpm, thanks exercise!). Thanks to the awesome online website my healthcare provider has, I even checked on my stats from the last time I visited the doctor (um, 3 years ago, oops) and found that I am now 35 pounds lighter with approximately the same blood pressure and heart rate. Awesome. I love data!

While I was there, the doc also ordered a full blood panel for me and had the nurse give me a booster shot called Tdap (tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis), so now I can go play climbing around abandoned buildings rife with rusty metal and hang out with coughing folk. This sounds like a great future weekend activity.

I am so excited to see how my blood test comes out. I have been training for it all last week by taking multi-vitamins and making sure to eat enough iron-rich foods. I even ate chicken livers the day before to up my iron, so I hope all my stats are in the green. I typically have problems with low iron and get rejected by the blood bank regularly. Strangely, they always encourage me to try again next time. Maybe I should just give up at some point, but whenever the notice comes around that they’ll be at work, I always sign up. My mom always said I was hard-headed!!

Written by Reese

March 22, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Posted in just life

5-on-Friday: Week 11

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I know my last 5-on-Friday was pretty depressing, but as the week’s gone on, things have gotten much better and I’m almost back to my normal, happy self again.

1. Everyone, be calm
I heard from a bikey acquaintance that, while she was cycling around in Palo Alto, a bus actually took time to pull over on a busy road and yell at her for being on the road. The road narrows for about 15m, and she just had to be in the lane for that length and then she went back to the shoulder. As far as I know, the law says that bikes are allowed to be in the lane, because they are considered vehicular traffic, just like everyone else. That bus driver was way out of line and just needed to have a little patience and take a deep breath.

So please, if you drive your car near cyclists, please do be cautious and patient with us. I know we are usually slower than a car and sometimes you have to slow down, but it’s minimal when you think about it. Everyone (drivers and cyclists), please be calm and safe.

2. Stress-relief
This weekend was massively stressful, so I have spent most of this week concentrating on relieving the stress through physical activity and mental relaxation. I rode all the way home this week, made good time, and managed to have a ride completely free of angry cars. Yay!!

3. Return of the BFF
Ah, my babe is back from his 3 week business trip across the world. I’ve so missed hanging out with him and it’s really good to have him back in SF. It’s comforting to have a good friend I can confide in. I know I cycle through friends rather quickly, so it’s not often that I let myself develop a deep friendship connection with someone. I could probably whip out the psycho-babble and talk about my trust issues and all, but whatever. Bottom line: I missed my friend and I appreciate everything that he is. Sorry it’s sappy, but I can’t help it.

4. Coping skills
After the drama of the past weekend, I am also very grateful for good coping and communication skills. My head was clouded with anger and confusion all weekend, but it’s lifted thanks to some good talks and reassurance along with explanations. The whole issue could have been completely prevented, but it happened, and what we do in the aftermath is what matters most right now, right? I think we’re handling this the best we possibly can and everything is going to be just fine in the end.

5. Bike2Lunch
I organised a Bike2Lunch for my cycling club at work and invited a bunch of other bikey folks I work with. I’m pretty excited to see the turnout and hope everyone gets along and enjoys it. Our first outing will only be a couple miles away, but I’m hoping that we will arrive there and people will think, "Wow, that was really close! We could have kept going somewhere further!"

Haha, and of course I am hoping that it will get more people biking to work, since they’ll have to bring their bikes in order to bike to lunch! The weather is so perfect lately that I’m hoping a little encouragement will get people riding.

And with that, I take my leave of you lovely folks. It’s going to be wonderful here in California, so I’ve scheduled a long ride on Sunday and will be meeting friends up in SF on Saturday. I’m trying to split my weekend doing photography and biking, just because I’ve been doing more biking than photography and I’d like to balance things out.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Written by Reese

March 19, 2010 at 9:05 am

Posted in just life

Art and the rush of feelings

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It’s pretty clear to me that people can learn about art. You can learn what has made certain pieces historically and culturally important. You can learn how such pieces were made and how they were received by the art community. You can learn about the history of the artist, what was happening in their lives at the time they were making art, and some of the motivations behind the art.

But does all this add up to actually "getting it"? Does understanding all this help you with creating your own art? Is your creative output even considered art? Who makes the call on if something is art or not anyway? Does any of this help explain why you like a certain piece of art? Or maybe it helps to explain why you don’t like certain pieces too.

I must say that I don’t know the answers to these questions. Well, I should clarify. I know the answers for myself, personally, but I couldn’t tell you that I know the answers for anyone else.

I take somewhat of an impersonal interest in most art. I enjoy looking at art in general, but much of my enjoyment comes from the anthropological interest. I like to see how they portray beauty. You can see what beauty was like in certain eras and in certain cultures.

As for other art that I like, I find that it provokes something inside of me, a kind of visceral reaction. I can’t explain it well, other than the gut feeling of "Oooh, I like this!" I wish I could explain it better, to help someone else understand why a piece moves me, why it makes me feel the way I do. I suppose that no one else could really feel art the same exact way as I do. When I look at certain pieces of art, I can feel memories float to the surface and each memory’s associated feelings. Sometimes they bubble up all at once, and sometimes there is barely a glimmer.

For me, this is what makes art so personal and important. I couldn’t tell someone else why they should like something, but I could maybe try to tell them why I like it. Of course, I usually fail completely at this part, expressing my reaction to someone else and trying to make them understand. It always seems to fall short and it makes me wish that I was more eloquently gifted. Sure, I can string words together, but sometimes forming my feelings and thoughts into such a string of words that makes sense is much too difficult.

Telling someone that a photograph makes me feel sad is easy, but telling them exactly why it makes me feel that way is infinitely difficult. Can I reasonably explain to them how it reminded me of a dead friend whose wrists were delicate and held in just the same manner? Could I possibly express that it makes me thinks about the profound sadness and futility I felt when I came upon a dog that had been hit by a car? Could I even distill all these rushing thoughts and feelings into something so concrete as to tell someone about each one and how they combine to give me the overall feeling? Somehow, I don’t know if I could do that on the spot and would prefer to say, "Hmm, this makes me feel sad," and leave it at that.

Written by Reese

March 15, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Posted in just life

Five on Friday: Tardy Edition

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I had a crappy Friday, so I failed to write this up at all, so now it’s more like Five on Sunday instead of Five on Friday. I’ll keep this very short.

1. You never really know anyone.

2. Despair never helped anyone.

3. The cat is always a comfort.

4. I enjoy cutting my own hair, especially when it doesn’t look horrid after.

5. Life goes on.

Written by Reese

March 14, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Posted in just life

An open weekend

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This weekend, The Mister is headed out of town to 4-day hockey tournament. He went back and forth on whether or not he was going to go, but he finally decided to go and I’m glad for it. Well, I’m not glad he’s going to be gone, but I am glad that he is going to have an awesome time with his hockey buddies. Let’s face it, he loves hockey and he loves Vegas, so how can he possibly go wrong?

As for me, I’m feeling a bit on the lonely side, so I decided to book up my weekend seeing friends. The last time the Mister was out of town, I decided to hole up and do a lot of house activities like cooking, and cleaning, but this time, I decided that I’m going to take this chance to get out and see my friends as much as I can this weekend.

It’s been a little difficult to schedule time with friends since I’ve built up a variety of them and I don’t always want to see them at the same time (add to that the fact that not all my friends play well together). I’ve always felt that it’s more intimate to meet with friends one-on-one if I can, but that grouping friends according to common activities can really be a time-saver even if there is much less intimacy.

I love group activities with lots of friends, but I have some friends that I only see in larger groups and I must say that I do not tend to feel very close with them. Why individual meets with friends may not guarantee a close friendship, I can definitely say that group meets do not encourage close friends (for me anyway). I’m sure there are plenty of friend groups out there who are able to maintain close friendships solely through group activities, but I’ve personally found that when I like someone as a friend, I will make an effort to see him/her on an individual basis to cultivate the friendship. I suppose it’s almost a test of the friendship to see if we can manage to entertain ourselves without others around.

So yes, this weekend is yet another weekend of trying to make an effort to see friends individually. It’s very time-consuming to see people this way, but I find it very well worth the time. This weekend I will get to:

  • Eat good food
  • See lovely family
  • Ride bikes in SF with a friend I haven’t seen in a few months
  • Ride more with newly found local bikey friends
  • Oh and have I mentioned I will get to ride my bike?
  • See the doctor and get a full blood panel and physical exam (yes, this is actually exciting to me) — wait, this isn’t actually happening this weekend, but I’m going to include it anyway because I can

Yeah.. so that is what is up. I’m excited. Yes, I am. I think both the Mister and me will have an awesome weekend apart, and I love that we can enjoy our lives apart as much as enjoy them together. Hello, Venn Diagram. We’re individuals who have our own interests, but also somehow work well together. If we were horribly dependent on each other and didn’t know how to have a separate life from each other, I think this would be a failed relationship. Ha. Down with co-dependent partners!!

Note 1: It’s funny, but the people I am most interested in these days are usually 1) bikey, or 2) photography-oriented. Well, the photography thing is less interesting to me lately, but it’s still there for sure.

Note 2: In case anyone cares about that whole physical exam thing, I will probably write another entry about it in the near future. Seriously. I like going to the doctor that much. Call me a data-fiend, but I just love getting my stats.

Written by Reese

March 9, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Posted in just life

The lowly cheese sandwich

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Everyday I bring my lunch unless I have a lunch date out, but that is pretty rare (once a week or less). I have discovered that I enjoy eating office temperature meals that I can easily halve so I have lunch #1 around 12:00 and lunch #2 around 15:00. The happiest lunch for me these days is a simple cheese sandwich. I love that the cheese sandwich is so flexible and can usually stand being at office temperature for a solid part of the day without starting to smell funny (unless it’s a funny smelling cheese, in which case it’s ok to smell funny).

I have tried making other kinds of sandwiches for lunch at work, especially various deli meats, but have found that cheese sandwiches suit me much better. When I started making them, I would eat quite pitiful cheese sandwiches that were just two slices of wheat bread with two slices of pre-sliced cheese inside. Very pathetic, really. These days, I have been buying some nice bread and using high-quality cheese that I slice each morning with a wire. And where else to get these things, but the local farmers markets that the local cheesemakers and bread bakers frequent!

It’s taken me a while, but I think I can finally say that I have embraced my Northern Californian lifestyle and become a fervent farmers market lover. If you know anything about the food markets here in the Bay Area, it is seriously all about the farmers market and eating fresh and local. People are crazy about everything from broccoli to eggs to chocolates. They develop relationships with the people who sell them their food every week and they look forward to seeing what is freshest that week.

When it comes to Bay Area breadmakers, Acme Bread Company is pretty much the power player. I bought several mini-loaves of herb ciabatta. Maybe I’m just buying into the hype, but I do love this bread. It has a light, airy crumb, a little chewiness to give your mouth a workout, and the herbs aren’t too overwhelming, but at the same time they are present and give off a lovely aroma. Mmm… oh bread. I love you. I can’t do this low-carb thing, I swear!

Now, this is actually the first week that I have ever bought cheese from the farmers market here in CA. I used to occasionally buy cheeses from one of the small weeknight markets in MA, but I stopped buying market cheese completely when we moved here. For a few bucks, I got a white, square block of Dutch-Style Gouda from the Bravo Cheese stand. It is soft, creamy, and made from whole raw milk. I don’t eat a whole lot of cheese, but I do have a slice just about everyday for lunch. It’s one of the only dairy items in my diet since we don’t typically drink animal milk or eat yoghurt.

So yes, now I have the bread and also the cheese. Let’s put this cheese sandwich together!

But wait, this sounds a little boring, just a roll with a slice of cheese in it. Ah, then I should also let you know that I typically spread a flavoured hummus on the inside (this week’s is spicy hummus with red pepper flakes and jalapenos) and then throw in whatever greens I have fresh at home (spinach leaves this week).

And there we have it, my lowly cheese sandwich of herbed ciabatta with spicy hummus, fresh spinach leaves, and dutch-style gouda. I will eat another such sandwich every day this week, adding or omitting ingredients as necessary. Combined with a piece of fruit and followed by a cup of tea, this is a simple but very satisfying lunch that I look forward to each day. Ha, well, I eat it twice a day since I split my lunches. Ah yes, something to look forward to, twice in each day.

Written by Reese

March 8, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Posted in just life

9: Five on Friday, Optimistic Edition

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I had an awesome week (really, what else is new!), so without further ado here are my five:

1. Catching up with friends
I got to see a good friend that I have not seen for months. We met and went to Bar Tartine, where we ate a most delicious meal. I had a pressed sandwich with shoestring potatoes. It was pretty damned amazing. After eating, we wandered around up and down a graffiti alley, got exotic ice cream at Bombay Ice Creamery, experienced a power outage, and ended up walking around the park and talking about dogs, houses, kids, and life.

I’m almost amazed at how nice it is to meet a friend I haven’t seen in so long, but feel able to pick up right where we left off.

2. Eating well
I headed up to a huge farmers market on Sunday that I had been looking forward to all week and also got to meet up with two friends to help me navigate the market; it is very overwhelming and I never know quite where to go. We are trying to use up all of our food and only buy as much as we need for the week, so I couldn’t go crazy, but I did get a few bunches of healthy greens, some fruit, and half a dozen pastured eggs. I would call it a good haul, for sure.

3. Steel frame bike gang
Since I love cramming my weekends full of friends, I managed to meet up with my steel frame bike gang by back-tracking the route of a group ride and eventually finding them along the way (thank god for mobiles!). I couldn’t get a really long ride in, but it was sure nice to see everyone and chat along the way back home.

4. Heck yeah, the game rocked!
So this whole Olympics thing somehow managed to pass me by almost completely. The only events I watched were the hockey games since Mister has serious hockey love and can’t stop watching a game if it’s on. After the bike ride on Sunday, we hit up our local downtown bar and caught the end of the US-Canada hockey game, which was really exciting! I am actually really glad that Canada won, and so happy that they are now the second host country to win an Olympic hockey gold medal (US is the other). Yay! Good times, and awesome game, guys. I don’t even really mind that the US lost, because we still got a goddamn silver medal!!

5. O Mister, my Mister
Sometimes I forget to be grateful for him because he’s just always around, but I decided I should dedicate at least one of these Friday Five items to him so I can note all the special things he does every week.

He took care of a rather painful plumbing issue this weekend for us. He rang me at work and made me smile in the middle of the day for no reason at all. He also agreed to go to an alumni social with me, where we had an okay time, but agreed that we probably wouldn’t go to future events. He is willing to play the ‘string-toy’ game with Cat until she is lying cross-eyed and breathless on the floor. And finally, he knows just when to hug me when I am in a bad mood over something.

Written by Reese

March 5, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Posted in just life

Waxing poetic

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Sometimes I put together small poems in my head when I ride my bike. See, the nice thing about bike commuting is that I am pretty much on automatic as far as where I turn (I know the area really well at this point and can easily take multiple paths to get where I need to go). Of course, my poems pretty much suck since I am not a poem-writing type of girl, and I tend to forget them a few minutes later anyway.

So, instead of my sharing my half-formed (deformed) poems, I’ll just share some bits of what my commute is like. I am almost positive I wouldn’t have such an appreciation of these things if I was driving to work everyday.

On rainy mornings, as I ride past certain street corners, I smell this wonderful damp earthy smell, sort of like how a forest smells after it rains. It’s usually just a whiff, but it reminds me of the earthy scent of mushrooms and wet trees.

In the afternoons, the sky turns a radiant mix of pinks and purples. It always makes me wish I had a camera with me, but secretly I know that it’s better that I don’t since I could never capture the true beauty.

Depending on the day’s route, I sometimes pass coffee houses that always smells so richly of coffee and baked goods that I wish I can make a pit stop to pick something up. It’s pretty amazing how distinctive the smell of coffee is and how the aroma of fresh baked goods always feels so welcoming.

As a dog lover, I can’t help but notice all the dogs and their people walking around. I have a penchant for short dogs like Corgis so whenever I see one, I always feel like it’s a good sign for the day. I will smile at just about any dog I see though. There is something about seeing dogs trotting along, sometimes with their tails pointing straight up in the air, that always makes me smile.

Everyday, I also pass across a couple very small water canals. They are usually bone dry in the summertime, but the winter rains have filled them recently. I always turn my head to look at the long, narrow stripes of water as I cross the small bridges.

Of course there is always the wind. Riding on my bike, I always make my own wind, even on the most still days. There is really something wonderfully invigorating about this that I just cannot simulate at a gym on a stationary bicycle or on a trainer in a living room. That wind that you make when you move, either by bike, through motor power, or on foot, is just a generally nice feeling.

I’ve heard the saying that the world looks better from the seat of a bicycle, and I find it hard to disagree. I get my heart and blood pumping, see the world at my own pace, and generally experience the outside. Life is just a bit slower and it makes me appreciate it all just a bit more than I used to.

Written by Reese

March 3, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Posted in just life