Archive for May 2010
I get so frustrated when things happen to the ones I love and I am so far away and feel like I can’t do anything to help them. Sometimes it’s hard being so far away from the people who matter to me. It feels like it’s so difficult to make a lasting personal connection with people, so when I do happen to make one, I try to nurture it as much as possible, even if we live a few time zones away from each other. We can’t help that we are so distant and yet so close to each other.
Usually, I don’t mind the distance between me and some of my good friends. It means we don’t get to see each other in person, and maybe we don’t catch up as often as we could, but we are usually in constant contact through chat and email. It’s just when something terrible happens that I really feel the stretch of the distance between us.
I recently found out that something terrible happened to one of my friends, and I could feel the tears well up immediately behind my eyes. They were tears of sadness, and also of frustration of not being able to do more to help. I thought to myself that maybe somewhere these tears might be able to help ease her suffering.
This isn’t very well organised, but the thoughts are just swirling around in my head and they just need to be put down somewhere and made real. It’s just a situation that touches me and yet has so very little impact on my day to day life. It doesn’t lessen any of the pain I feel for my friend, rather it intensifies it in a strange way.
I know it doesn’t make much sense, and maybe this entry will be deleted in the near future. It’s grieving I suppose, in my own little way, for my friend and her tremendous loss.
Sorta big news this week, but in a private sorta way. Just a personal triumph I might say, of being able to reach a point where I can find it in myself to trust friends with certain parts of my life that I don’t always share with the world.
1. Being able to trust
I was able to trust in a couple friends this week, and it made all the difference. My head’s been a bit noisy this week, but I think it’s settled for at least a little while and I think it has a lot to do with being able to find people I can trust and be open with.
2. The return of the Mister
I am so glad to have my Frannie back. He is so good at keeping the bed warm and cooking regular food for me (instead of a rather pathetic quick dinner of beer and a slice of butter toast or natto on rice). It’s been so comforting to have someone to hold me when I don’t feel so great. I so missed our close physical contact and find that I crave it when I don’t have regular access.
Man, I love my friends. I really do. Just this week alone, I’ve been overwhelmed by their kindness. A friend offered to buy me some cycling gear because I just need it and I haven’t gotten around to buying it myself. A coworker shared some of his home-brewed beer with me, because he knows I love the stuff. A friend let me work on his bike, teaching me to take apart the bottom bracket and do some other small maintenance work. Another friend extended an invitation to a weekly dinner he was hosting for his friends, since the Mister was out of town and my friend thought I needed some dinner company.
Such surprising kindness and generosity from others.
4. Personal contact
I have never been so appreciative of physical contact with others than this week. Going through everyday life, I find that I so rarely touch another person, other than a cursory handshake or brief hello-bye-hug. I have even felt a little withdrawal lately because I am used to more personal contact than I was getting with the Mister being gone. I’ve also felt so emotionally and mentally isolated lately, and that’s made the lack of physical contact especially difficult.
I treasure my friends who do have a slightly lingering hello-bye-hug, especially one friend in particular who always holds me so warmly and tightly when he greets me. Just this very simple gesture makes me feel so safe and loved. I have always appreciated his warm hugs, but even more so this past week when I’ve felt so alone. Recently I even discovered that another friend is completely willing to give me a hug; I only need ask, and I shall receive. It’s been a lifesaver.
5. And of course something on the bikey life, goddamn addict!
I’ve been riding my bike a lot lately (more so than usual). Whenever I need to release some stress, I go for a ride. I don’t go very fast, but I do like to ride up and down hills, feeling my heart pumping and my breath rushing in and out of me.
I especially enjoy nighttime rides through almost pitch black hilly parts of the Presidio. There is really something about quietly riding through the park, watching your friend’s blinky rear light disappearing around curves ahead of you. It’s just you and your friend, your bikes and the road. You don’t have to worry about a larger group, there aren’t many people on the road late at night, and it feels serene and wonderful.
It’s cold and windy and there are a lot of hills, but it is all worth it to feel so invigorated. I feel alive in those hills, pumping my legs hard to get up a hill, only to slide down on the other side, ducking forward to minimize drag, my hands gripping the cold metal of the handlebars. I feel capable, strong, efficient. I’ve been getting better at going up and down hills because I’ve purposely included them in my routes, just taking whatever route I’ve deemed best from the map, regardless of the hills ahead.
For the first time in my life, I really feel fit, like I could tackle whatever was ahead of me, and it’s such a strong feeling it makes me wonder why I never thought that I needed this before in my life.
Yes yes, boo hoo… I have been lonely this week, mostly because my Frannie is off on a 10 day business trip in Asia. Sadface. I miss him.
1. Doctor visit
I went to the doctor to finally see him about the pain in my leg and he said it’s probably a torn hamstring that is just taking a while to heal up. I’m glad that he deduced that it’s not something worse and gave me a pamphlet with a series of exercises to help the recover along.
2. Considerate friends
Yeah. They are just plain nice.
3. Doing it myself
I talked about my bike repair adventures in another post, but let me just repeat that doing stuff myself is pretty awesome, and having friends who help me out are even better! I feel very fortunate.
4. Natto breakfast
Before Frannie left, he stocked the fridge with food for me while he’s gone. If I’m alone, I don’t tend to cook much and end up just eating small meals like natto and rice or rice and panchan. I like cooking, but sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed by cooking a nice meal for myself after I get home from work and I’d rather make something really simple to fill my belly.
The best thing he bought was a package of natto with mustard sauce. Seriously, I love natto! I’ve been eating it on rice for breakfast and alone as a snack at night before bed. I finished the last pack this morning, so I’m trying to figure out how I can haul my butt to the store to get more tonight!
5. I really love my friends
Yeah. I know I already talked about friends briefly in #3, but I feel like I really need to emphasize it this week. Wait, don’t I talk about how much I appreciate and adore my friends every week? Well it’s true. I do.
This week, I’ve felt especially grateful for my friends who meet for random dinners, go on bike rides, show me how to perform basic bike maintenance, and make me laugh my butt off. Ah, friends.
Last night I took Blue to Brian’s house to see if he could do anything about the brakes. I’d told him about the horrible squealing and he decided this was a challenge he needed to take on. I told him how I’d already gone to a number of bike shops and they all told me to get new rims and that would stop the squealing.
Brian is really good at working on bikes, so when he offered to take a look at Blue, we settled on a time and I stopped at the grocery on the way over to pick up some beer as payment. I think it took him about 20 minutes to fix the squealing on both wheels!
We talked a bit more about exactly what he did so that I can hopefully replicate it in the future if they start to squeal again.
I’ll change over the freewheel and then I will be happy for a long time with Blue!! I can’t wait to take her up some hills…
Lately, I’ve gotten a wicked hankering for a new bike, but I think it’s mostly because my current bike is somewhat unsafe. There are just a number of things that make a rider feel insecure on this bike, but I’m slowly working to finally improve my ride.
After test-riding my bike, a friend suggested that I needed to have my headset tightened. A loose headset makes for an unsure ride. Sure enough, I took it to a shop that helped me out and tightened the headset for me; now I feel a lot more secure riding, especially down hills.
Well, this isn’t really a new problem, per se. I’ve had problems braking ever since I got this bike because it has wheels with shiny chromed steel rims, which makes for an awful braking surface. Not only is the surface nice and slick, but the brakes don’t really hold and stopping is very jerky and unreliable. In the rain, I don’t get any braking power at all and I have almost slid directly into traffic more than once (luckily I was on a flat road and I was able to stop by pulling a Fred Flinstone).
A few months ago, one of my coworkers actually gave me his unused Schwinn LeTour with aluminum alloy rims, in the hopes that I could transfer the wheels over to improve braking. Sadly, I was pretty lame and tried transferring the front wheel and gave up on the whole wheelset when it wouldn’t fit. This past weekend, I decided to dust off the rear aluminum wheel and finally tried putting it on my bike et voilà, it worked! I did a minor adjustment to the brake pads to make sure they were seated right on the rim and I am so pleased to report that braking is much smoother and quieter with the "new" rear wheel.
Now, I just need to get the front wheel on. Of course, this is complicated by the fact that I have an old English bike, since the front fork’s dropouts are keyhole shaped, and therefore won’t fit the standard axle width. Add in the fact that the width of the fork is also too narrow, and this quickly turns into a complicated problem. Right now, I’m looking to either get the front fork’s dropouts filed down, or have someone re-build the aluminum rims around the current wheel’s hub. Both options mean I might be bikeless for at least a few days, and right now with Frannie out of the country, I just can’t risk not having a bike! If I’m lucky enough to find another aluminum front wheel that fits the old Nottingham Raleigh forks, I could potentially just swap it out. Or maybe there’s a workaround using thinner lock nuts on the aluminum wheel’s axle. Hmm….
I’m consulting a bike expert friend tonight, so he can give it to me straight and let me know what I need to do to make this work. Thank for god bikey friends who are willing to help me out. I love them.
Changing out the rear cassette
So right now I have my coworker’s aluminum wheel on the rear of my bike. The nice thing about the wheel is that the braking power is awesome. The bad thing about the wheel is that the cassette (the set of gears on the wheel) is what is called a "corncob." The gears are really small and all just about the same size. It is basically geared very high for speed and not very good for climbing hills. This is great for my commute since I can go fast fast fast on a flat route, but this is bad for climbing any kinds of hills (um… like social rides around SF and through the Presidio).
I’m planning to change out the rear cassette (assuming they are interchangeable) for more varied gearing; I miss my granny gear! I’m hoping to get this done by the end of this week so that I can go on a Friday night ride with climbing. I really like running up and done the hills, and with new braking power, going down will actually be fun instead of harrowing!
Yesterday was Bike to Work Day, and I thoroughly managed to enjoy myself by visiting a couple energizer stations and managing to meet up with a few friends along the way too. The train was extra crowded yesterday, so it’s a welcome respite to find an almost empty bike car this morning. Yay. I like giving Blue some space.
That being said, I’ve not had the best week lately, having a lot to do with a bit of bad news and some on-going physical difficulties. Regardless, probably as a result of my naturally sunny disposition (how annoying, right??), I’ve been trying to really focus on the good parts and see that lovely silver lining on even the darkest, most menacing storm cloud. I rely so heavily on my own resilience and that of the people around me, and it really helps so much when having a difficult week.
And with that, I’ll get straight to my list.
1. Push push
For the most part, my friends are a stimulating bunch. We talk about interesting topics, learn new skills together, and share our lives with each other. I’m so thankful to these friends of mine.
2. Working on the kindness
I try to be a kind person, but I sometimes fail. The problem is that I sometimes associate over-the-top kindness with being a doormat, and I am completely unwilling to be anyone’s doormat (well, unless I completely adore them). I know it’s possible to be kind without being a doormat, but I’m just not sure if I know how to find that balance quite yet. I’m still working on it.
I’m not perfect, but lately I’ve practised being a kinder person. This means trying to hold my tongue when I’m about to snap at someone and also generally trying to be more considerate of others. I’m still not the kindest person in the world, but I sure don’t aspire to that. I just want to increase my current level of kindness. It’s slow going, but being with people who are kind remind me that it’s worth the trouble.
I’ve been feeling a little frustrated and sad lately. I don’t really want to get into exactly why, but just want to mention it. It will be a fleeting period in my life, but I have been really feeling it lately, so I hope it means that things can get better from here.
Thank you, friends, who laugh with me (and at me) and help me learn to laugh with you. It has meant a lot, especially in the past week, and I very much appreciate it.
5. Sentimental bastard
Yes, I can most certainly be a sentimental bastard at times. I suppose that when I am feeling down and out, that’s what it comes out most strongly. I try to look at these times as a reminder of how good the good times are. A little contrast never hurt anyone.
My most recent sentimental daydream was triggered by seeing some people I haven’t seen in a long time. It makes me wonder what might have happened in my life if things had been different. Sure, you can’t change the past; you can only learn from it. The way things happened is the way life has to be, so no use fighting what’s already been done. Digest and try to understand and make the best out of it all. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
I finally gave in to the no-knead bread craze of 2006 (so I’m fashionably late to the party) and tried the recipe. I utterly botched the entire recipe because I can’t follow directions, but somehow it still turned out alright. Look!
I will try this recipe again, probably with a couple modifications like changing up the baking pan and trying to actually follow the suggested rise times.
I mixed it up on Sunday afternoon and let it sit until I got home on Monday night, which is clearly more than the suggested 18 hours. When I got to the dough, it was not big and puffy and dotted with holes as the recipe said, but it was bigger than it originally was and sorta puffy and there might have been holes at some point.
When I did the second rise, I did use this little aluminum foil sling type deal that I slid directly into the pre-heated pan, but next time I’ll plan to just rise it in an oiled bowl and dump it into the pan when it’s done. Really, people. I don’t even want to try doing this with towels as the original recipe suggests. That sounds like a bit of an OCD horrorshow to me! No mess like that for me, no siree Bob!
And as for the pan, I used a rather large stockpot as the container, probably 10-12 quarts, and I think it was a little too large. The recipe suggests using a 6-8 quart pan, but some people have suggested using a 4 quart pan for a higher loaf. The stock pot I used also has plastic lined handles and pot lid knob, so I had to cover them with aluminum foil in the hopes that they wouldn’t melt at 450F. Next time, I’ll try making it in one of our smaller all-metal pots, maybe with a parchment liner to aid in clean-up.
Anyway, my loaf ended up rather like a giant ciabatta. Not a bad thing, but not exactly what I wanted out of this.
But no matter… as hard as I tried to botch this, it still came out really nicely, with a chewy inside and a crisp outside. Not quite the perfect sandwich bread, but most certainly a very nice hunk-of-bread-with-a-bowl-of-soup bread.