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I should be working on a manuscript, but I am dragging my heels to some extent because of an issue.

So instead, I'll tell you about the "Introduction to Randonneuring" presentation last night. Two of the people who attended dug up links to nice descriptions of randonneuring: an NPR feature from 2013, and a blog entry describing more of the sport's history.

We had around ten participants, almost all of whom are already century riders. I could see their eyes light up at the description of how brevets work. The links above may give some indications as to why - not everyone is interested in racing, which seems to be more predominantly advertised for cycling, so when people who don't want to race finally discover that there's a community and niche catering to their interests, they get excited.

I initially thought I would give a slideshow-style presentation, but after some thought and investigation, I changed my mind. Instead, I went in with an outline (at the end, below a cut), and did things with more of a question-and-answer format. We first talked about ride structure, and then spent a bit of time talking about gear and other such logistical concerns.

One of my main reasons for deciding to deviate from a slideshow was wanting to tailor the discussion to the audience. I led the workshop specifically because I want to help grow the sport in Nebraska, so one of the conversation topics was setting up routes and permanents close to Lincoln. Several people offered really good ideas, including suggestions for good permanents (e.g. a connector between Lincoln and Omaha), and for fitting in brevets that would work well with the overall local bicycling calendar.

So now I have created more work for myself - but it's fun work, so I can't complain. I'm going to see about trotting down to the Nebraska Department of Roads to pick up some statewide bike maps (now that I know they exist), and about contacting the Pirate Cycling League people to discuss Lincoln-area gravel routes. One of the participants is the founder of Sheclismo, a woman-focused cycling organization, and that group looks like a fantastic "missing link" for me to connect with.

But in the meantime, back to manuscript-writing...

Introduction outlineCollapse )

Further brevet notes

This is only the second time I've ever seen a LIVE ARMADILLO in the US. It was so exciting I want to tell you about it again. The first time was shortly after I'd moved to Texas. Someone had already stopped to look at it, so it didn't feel like much of a discovery that first time. This time, it ran across the road right in front of us.

I just put all of my randonneuring photos from this year's brevets into a Flickr album. The captions tell many of the small stories.

I wish I had photographed at least one of the cemeteries we rode past. Several of them were beautifully bedecked with flags for Memorial Day, unfurled in the breeze.

As we rode towards one tiny town, we saw a bunch of people on the horizon, standing near the side of the road. From a distance, they looked like teenaged hooligan hitchhikers. When we got closer, we discovered they were holding out bottles of water for us! It was a family that had driven past us a couple of times while we were riding. The motorists along the route were generally phenomenal - patient and completely changing lanes to pass us.

I tried an experiment this time. After the 400k, my knees were bothering me pretty badly. So this time, I did not stand up to climb the hills. My knees feel fine. End of experiment. It's strange, though. I think I'm able to stand and climb more comfortably on the Jolly Roger, which differs from Froinlavin in several notable ways. First, more roomy cockpit - I can put my hands out wider while standing, and being upright is more comfortable. Second, platform pedals. Third, the Jolly Roger's mass just feels more solid than Froinlavin - maybe a lower center of gravity? Now, I've never ridden the Jolly Roger for 370 continuous miles, so this is a limited comparison. Could it all have to do with Froinlavin having a shorter top tube? In the very least, I know I was able to maintain a happy speed even without standing to climb, so I have a workable strategy available. And I know to trust my instinct that says that standing to climb just doesn't feel comfortable or right. I suspect I will wind up asking about it on the "randon" listserv.

I have determined that it is time for new: gloves, shorts, tires, chain/cassette, and helmet. Actually, my neck also feels better than after the 400k. But I do worry about my google-eye helmet's extra mass generating problems further down the road, and I would feel extremely stupid if I wound up with Shermer's Neck from wearing it (note: prepare to be a little disturbed if you image search that phrase). Even before I ask the above climbing question, I'm going to ask the Randos for particular recommendations for gloves and shorts. I received a terrible recommendation for my last set of bike gloves from a random person working at a bike shop, and my hands have suffered the consequences.

While riding, I was reminded of this beginner's guide to preparing for a cycling trip (highly recommended read). SK, R and I also chatted about some of the exotic bikes we'd seen on brevets, which made me go and look up that wonderful essay written by Mark Twain about learning to ride a pennyfarthing. I believe only one pennyfarthing has ever completed the entire Paris-Brest-Paris.

600k complete!

I am feeling surprisingly alert, for having just finished another 600k. The completion means I'm now up to four Super Randonneur Series (series of 200k, 300k, 400k, 600k). And you know what? I feel a sense of accomplishment. They are a major experience, let me tell you.

Highlights:

We managed to get almost five (5!) hours of sleep on Saturday night. Every extra hour feels so luxurious. Saturday's tailwind sections helped tremendously. It was also helpful to divide up the pulling across four riders instead of just two. But even two was better than one!

We saw a LIVE ARMADILLO! I was unable to photograph it.

I found a really nice cell phone just lying by the side of the road! (it belonged to one of our riders who had gotten ahead of the group; I gave it back after some heckling)

Our penultimate control was at a winery/brewpub. Oh man. It was so awesome. Beer really hits the spot before/during/after a bike ride. They also had appetizers that were substantive enough to fuel the last 30 miles - chips with spinach-artichoke dip, and a goat cheese/raspberry jam/black bean combination thing. I am so grateful that the Nebraska Randonneurs (all three of us, heh) like to stop at these kinds of places, and put the emphasis on enjoying the ride. Life's too short to freak out about setting new time records or whatever. I think the Colorado guy who showed up (and lost his phone) experienced a bit of culture shock, as he is apparently one of those people who does double century races. He really enjoyed the Nebraska roads, however. And he's right - they are remarkably clean and clear of glass or other puncture debris. I can say that now that the series is complete (my tires are balding and need replacement, so I've been superstitious up until now).

Time to bathe and maybe sleep some more. And stretch. And eat.

400k so far

Up at 5 and leaving by 6 to finish the last 200k. Wiped out but riding all right. In Hebron, NE. Got rained on but nothing terrible.

Counting the days

KM and I would periodically have a certain conversation in the mornings while out rowing during periods in our lives where we were on the busy side of things. In essence, it was about doing that mental calculation until the next time it would be possible to get a full night's sleep.

I haven't had to operate in that mode to a tremendous degree in the last couple of years, but I'm in it now.

Today: another hectic work day. I suspect all of the water in our labs will continue to be shut off for another 2-3 weeks. I wish they hadn't lied to us about temporarily plumbing in water to one faucet per lab.

As soon as I wrap up work, I'll head home, load stuff onto Froinlavin, bike over to the airport, pack Froinlavin in the rental car, and drive straight down to Falls City. Brevet start time is 4 am tomorrow. I didn't have good cell phone service during the 400k, which followed some of the same route, so I suspect I won't be updating from the road. I'll try to remember to post something on Sunday night.

I'll be back at work on Monday, although I've warned my boss that I won't be highly functional.

I barely made it in time to a bike camping clinic last night, at the shop where I'll be giving the introduction to randonneuring. It's a really good thing I went, for two reasons: (1) I got to meet more of the women cyclists in the area who are looking for people to ride with, and (2) it made me realize that I should *not* put together a slide presentation for the randonneuring intro. I'll bring an outline of subjects to talk about, and will lead in with a round of introductions, so I can find out what people know, why they're interested, and what specific things they're curious about. Then we'll go from there, and I'll give everyone a set of links to further resources as well.

It looks like we have twice the numbers for the 600k as for the 400k, which is to say, there will be four of us.

Whoof

Today:

Taught one undergrad how to extract lipids from crickets, and helped feed and water some of the crickets.

Then I injected 24 crickets with radiolabeled glycine, pausing periodically to tend to other tasks, like working on manuscript revisions and continuing to oversee undergrad projects.

How is it only Wednesday?

Tonight: Skype date with S, more work on the randonneuring presentation, and I need to map out the route for tomorrow morning's bike ride.

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Monkeys in the lab

I had an entire biochemistry lab to myself for about 3.5 months, there, but that has changed as of this week. It's always a funny transition to experience. A similar thing would happen with our ant behavior lab in Arizona - largely inactive for a 9-month stretch, then an insane flurry of activity. It's important to be able to manage the rubbing elbows with humor and grace.

Yesterday I had an excuse to poke at the various microscope light sources that were strewn around the lab, because a second person will be needing regular scope access and the one functional light source that I've been using is suddenly a hot commodity. I continue to derive great pleasure from fixing such things. One light simply had a loose wire, plus a worn-out switch knob. Another old-school light needs a new bulb. I didn't finish dealing with the third one because I am simultaneously running an experiment, teaching two undergrads to do two separate sets of procedures, and monitoring our cricket-rearing operations. Aquariums are a bottleneck on that front, especially with having to haul everything up to the third floor to wash it.

I finally finished an overdue manuscript review last night, and then started in on presentation materials for my "Introduction to Randonneuring" workshop that I'll be leading next Tuesday. Apparently my projector options are limited to using Chromecast somehow, so I haven't resolved exactly how I am going to do that just yet. I guess it's possible to point Chromecast at a website? If so, maybe I'll just write everything out on one long HTML page and call it good enough. I'm inclined to agree with this guy about the current state of major internet venues (note that the link is not light on profanity, in case you are sensitive to such matters).

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Clawing our way back to civilization

Talkative Officemate knew where to find the construction guys who organize the other construction guys, so after a futile conversation with the department chair, I went down to have a chat with them about our lack of water. So now at least a couple of the actual construction people have room numbers written on paper. Talkative officemates have their benefits!

They also turned the university-wide steam system on again in the early afternoon. I could tell because walking into the office stopped feeling like walking into a walk-in cooler. The oil-filled space heater I ordered mid-week last week also showed up, so we're running it to work on boosting the temperature in one of the two cricket rooms that has been out of commission. Fingers crossed, we'll be able to move crickets back in there tomorrow. That would relieve a large portion of the squeeze. The remaining room is going to be a separate conversation with the construction workers, after we have water again. And two of the undergraduates managed to dishwash like crazy all day today in the tiny upstairs sink, so we'll be able to do 27 aquaria transfers tomorrow. Basically, we're barely staying on top of things.

Now it's time to revise a "lay abstract" for a manuscript, and write an overdue manuscript review.

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Things to ponder

Work construction ridiculousness continues apace.

At least we have a few more people back to help with cricket maintenance. And I learned where the construction workers' office is located so I can go yell at them directly, despite the futility of it all.

I need to finish reading about the conservative case for taxing carbon pollution. The Republican rhetorical strategy is fascinating to observe sometimes - how people go about saying "I changed my mind" without admitting that's what they've done.

This piece arguing against early cancer detection is thought-provoking, mostly about how one should not always generalize about such a tremendously complex subject (from the biological perspective). Why is it that people are so willing to go to extreme lengths to avoid cancer, while simultaneously contributing to global warming and other forms of environmental degradation that lead to just as much human pain and suffering? I've been reading through a back-issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment that says that studies have found that char-grilled hamburgers are likely to be a much greater source of dangerous small particulate matter pollution than vehicles. And yet the vehicles are heavily regulated, while the family-owned hamburger joints aren't.

I keep on thinking about how people install birdfeeders to try and attract birds, and then spin around and hose down their homes with pesticides to kill off any and all insects, even though birds are major disease vectors and most insect "pests" are "nuisance pests," which means they don't really carry major diseases or allergens, people just don't like them. Apparently it's currently the International Urban Wildlife Conference, so there are related questions being tossed back and forth and pondered on Twitter under the hashtag #iuwc2015 . Someone put it succinctly: to feed or not feed wildlife? Some people say no because it can cause all kinds of problems, while others say yes, because it connects people to wildlife. Another person has pointed out that one of the things that needs to be done is showing the consequences of our behavior for other animals, whether it's our feeding behavior or other things. The general public often doesn't seem able to make this conceptual leap without some facilitation.

Back to work.

What an indulgent weekend.

I didn't take any photos of breakfast. I mixed up a batch of wheat germ waffles (recipe from annikusrex's dad from ages ago), then chopped up the rhubarb and simmered it down with a bit of sugar, and whipped up some cream. I really enjoy skirting that edge between not-sweet and sweet, and the tart rhubarb and cream play off of each other so well.

Then it was time to go to the lab and sort crickets. And THEN it was time to catch up with grad school friends via video chat. One of those internal "OMG everyone is pregnant or has small children" moments. Still, it was wonderful to see everybody because they are part of my tea-drinking posse of Scrabble players.

The cooking bender continued. I made some paneer so I could make some shahi paneer korma (aka Indian Spaghetti), and used most of the whey in some bread dough. Oh, incidentally, the pear tart was phenomenal, and looked okay, too, although I feel like something's off with the oven and caused the edges to burn instead of turning golden brown.

Pecan-pear tart

Then I baked some soil. Well, sterilized it, to try and start more tomato seedlings. I decided it was time to see if any of those Black Prince seeds I saved a few years ago will germinate. One of the biggest advantages of having a kitchen sink window is that it's the perfect place to put little plant projects that need frequent monitoring.

I also got seeds ready to ship off to my sister, sister-in-law, and S. Just giving seeds to them has made me feel much better about the rest of the seed stash. It's a manageable size now, although for some reason I'm still holding onto a lot of seeds for various squash-type plants. That's okay, overall, as squash seeds are fairly easy to come by anyway.

And now, it's going to be a busy work week, so something tells me I won't regret having avoided manuscript-writing over the weekend. Supposedly they'll turn the heat back on on Monday. There's still no water in the lab, and the aquarium backlog is large. Too large. At least another undergrad will be back to work.

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