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Cobbler

Saturday: I did not go rowing in the morning. Instead, S and I biked up to the Troy Farmer's Market, then toodled around on our bikes down towards Kinderhook Lake (where two rowing teammates live), then rode back up along Highway 9J* and home again, for a good 60-mile training ride.

Troy Farmer's Market: I swear, there were maybe a grand total of 5 actual farms selling produce, interspersed among 25 or 30 other kinds of vendors selling various value-added goods. The biggest sign of shark-jumping, to me, was the produce stand where everything was labeled as Superlative Produce: "Lovely Lettuce," "Charismatic Cucumbers," etc. Okay, maybe not so much "Charismatic Cucumbers," but you get my drift. I miss the down-home folks at the Phoenix and Bryan farmer's markets. Hopefully our corner church guy Farmer Market will reappear sometime soon.

The crowds were pretty thick in Troy, and there were some well-heeled folks among us commoners. I just sort of marvel at the socioeconomic happenings in New York, and the various forms of status signaling. I generally just status signal "Giant Bike Dork," heh. I have to wonder how many people are actually able to make use of the food stamp options available at markets like this one.

On the other hand, the Troy Bike Rescue (bike co-op) had a table up. So we were able to give them some stickers and get some cool stickers in return. I also issued a bike ticket but got called out because we didn't leave quickly enough. Oh well. One place also did have strawberries for $5 a quart, so we snagged two quarts.

Nobody had any rhubarb for sale!

My Saturday evening tiredness indicates that it's a very good thing we did that training ride.

Sunday was all grocery-shopping, then rowing-related administrivia, then somehow it was dinnertime and I still had all the (somewhat bruised) strawberries to process.

But! I figured something out. Flipping the strawberry huller tongs around so the gripper goes around my thumb worked much better than with the gripper around my index finger.

I got some rhubarb at the grocery store (crazy talk, I know), so we had strawberry-rhubarb cobbler for dessert. I love cobbler. We never had it growing up - my mom gravitates towards crisps instead. But cobbler is like strawberry shortcake without any extra fuss. Just drop the blobs of sticky dough on top of the fruit, shove it in the oven for 30 minutes, and dig in.




*I'm becoming convinced that every single highway in New York is called Highway 9__.

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Inheritance

With tonight's insomnomnomia, here's a topic I've been contemplating: costumes for the Seattle-to-Portland.

I'm not feeling the pirate regalia for this year.

I might just pin an earth flag to my shoulders, one my parents gave to me.

I also keep thinking about the t-shirt my father used to wear, that said, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children."*

Two contexts:

1. With climate change, have we actually entered a period of massive sorrow? I feel like I'm seeing less evidence of fighting over, "It's not real," and a shift towards more glum news stories documenting things changing in rapid, unexpected, and disturbing ways.

2. When I agreed to serve on this rowing club's Board, I inherited the club's history. On the one hand, here's something to be amazed and grateful for: there's a rowing club here, with a boathouse full of boats that we can use for rowing. (I mean, just consider those Texas boats for ten seconds).

On the other hand, being part of leadership means keeping closer tabs on finances, and learning more about the club's financial history. Things inherited: deferred maintenance backlog, a dock reaching the very end of its useable lifespan, some debt. The deferred maintenance backlog is so bad that boats are going out of commission frequently.

-

I would love to be able to turn these pictures around. I keep feeling that feeling, of being handed huge problems and told, "Well, we broke it. Good luck."

My father has given me tools for healing. I have my bicycle, and my own two hands. I have at least some level of patience, and a whole lot of stubborn persistence. He did his best to teach me about financial responsibility.

I hope I can continue to be a source of encouragement for others.

I also keep thinking of one of the Berkeley rowers from the Old Man Double, the one who was unfailing and so persistent in always speaking positively about the incredible qualities of the people around him.

We must carry these things forward.



*Quick oogley-googley search attributes this to Wendell Berry!

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Cut a rug

Working on writing papers means I'm spending a lot of time sitting in my office. That means I'm spending extra time staring at and thinking about the floor in my office. Bike commuting through wind, rain, sun, and snow means my office floor often gets dirty. So I've been idly contemplating getting another mat like the one we recently bought for our back door at home.*

But that would mean another trip to the Big Box Hardware Store (sigh).

This morning, while biking to work, I rode my bike right across some old door mat that had somehow made its way into the middle of the street. So then I turned around, waited until there was a lull in traffic, picked it up, rolled it up, and stuck it in my pannier.

My father would be so proud. "Roadside treasure!" he would declare. My mother usually greeted this declaration with skepticism (depending, of course, on the nature of the rescued object).

I gave the mat a pretty thorough rinse in a sink. Seeing as it is a big doormat that was in the middle of the street, a lot of grime came out. I probably didn't get all the grime out, but then again our sinks aren't really big enough for cleaning such objects. Still, it's now cleaner than it was.

It's old and starting to fall apart a little around the edges, but it'll do.




*When we moved in, our landlord had put in some cheap industrial carpeting just inside the back door that kept on slipping around all over the place. S narrowly avoided getting severely hurt once when he slipped on it and almost fell all the way down the basement steps! So we replaced it with a rubber mat that has been awesome: stays in place, traps the dirt.

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Get up, move forward [rowing; bicycling]

We had our next regatta of the season this past Saturday, down in Connecticut. I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow but overall it was a good regatta, with one exception: I'm finding myself surprisingly steamed about my first race. For that race I wound up racing in the mixed 2x again with Power Man (there's a fun new nickname, heh). Here's how it unfolded:

Prior to this regatta, our team sent a junior women's pair (sweep rowing; one oar each) and junior women's double (sculling; 4 oars total) down to Sarasota, FL for the Junior Nationals race. The pair rented a boat, and so did the double, but as backup insurance, our coach also arranged to send down one of our team's boats on another team's trailer - boat called the Blue Heron. That other team is from Connecticut, so he also arranged for us to pick up our boat plus all our oars from the other team at the regatta.

So Saturday morning, we arrive at the regatta and I go over with PM to get our equipment back. They have the Blue Heron plus the sweep oars...but no sculling oars, and none of the actual hardware from inside the boat (seats and footstretchers). Um. The coach who was there with the team at the regatta wasn't the same person who drove that trailer, so he had no idea about what might have happened. It quickly became apparent that we were going to have to use our other equipment and wouldn't be able to use the Blue Heron, which meant we would be back to rowing in a creaky old boat called the Heavy Double instead.

On top of that, I'd been banking on those extra sets of sculling oars. We brought along an adequate number of other club oars, but the ones we brought all had an older grip type (green handles) and I definitely prefer the newer grips (orange handles). One of the problems with the green handles is they come in different sizes and none of ours are labeled in a way where a person can tell what handle size is on an oar without carefully checking. Handle size and grip type have a huge impact on oar control.

So between this, that, and the other thing, we biffed the start in the mixed double and then did too much scrambling through the rest of the race. Argh. I don't like to blame the equipment but I do think it factored in, based on previous experiences I've had while testing out various different oars and boats. I made some adjustments to my oar handling for my other two races, so the other two races went better, but still. And in the back of my mind I'm thinking I may not get another chance to try racing again with PM. But really, that decision's completely out of my hands; the best I can do now is keep working on my own rowing to help myself get faster in every other race I'm in.

I have also been having an internal debate over whether to allocate my personal discretionary funds towards my own personal equipment or towards team needs. This is not an easy topic; the club has gone through a period of forced equipment neglect due to things that happened in recent club history (prior to my arrival). From the looks of things that has meant that a lot of people who might have contributed more to club efforts have instead pulled back and bought their own private equipment instead. Rowing politics at its finest.

So probably the best I can do is set up my own financial structure so that I am both saving up for my own oars and also making a substantive regular contribution towards team equipment. And in the meantime, bide my time. Really, this year isn't all that different from when it was time to save up for Froinlavin. The Jolly Roger was still a bicycle that would still take me places.

-

In other Athletic Activities I have Feelings About: I have signed up to ride the Seattle-to-Portland again with [personal profile] sytharin, [personal profile] scrottie, and now also [personal profile] annikusrex. Out of all of us, Syth will be the best-prepared. She declared her intentions very early in the year like a logical person and decided to fundraise for World Refugee Relief, which is the organization our father fundraised for last year. So she's been getting out on training rides already.

The rest of us will just be suffering through as best we can. But by now, all of us have ridden centuries before, so we know what that feels like, and we know it's possible to keep going well past the point where you might think it's no longer possible to keep going. Just keep eating and drinking and turning the pedals over. We've all got slightly less than a month to get ready.

I sort of have this feeling that this STP is going to make me just as much of an emotional wreck as I was at the end of the Paris-Brest-Paris four years ago. I have to pedal through the grief. Four years ago was the summer after Dad's first chemotherapy treatment, when I did the STP as a training ride for PBP, pushing my Dad along on the Odious IV for the first time, wearing a pirate outfit. But on the other hand, it is important to go out and do the ride again, and so I will.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1301278.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Note: While this is kind of about Life is a Miracle, it's mostly a rant about sloppy ideas guys, holding up E.O. Wilson as an example. He certainly isn't the worst culprit, but there are some glaring problems.

In December, I borrowed the book Life is a Miracle from my father. It had been on my list of books to read for a while, based on having read The Gift of Good Land and finding TGoGL insightful, and based on some conversations with my father about the distinctions between scientific insights versus individual lived experiences.

My father tucked some newspaper clipping reviews of E.O. Wilson's book Consilience inside of his copy of Life is a Miracle; these clippings kept on falling out of LIAM as I read it. From the clippings I gather that my father probably never read Consilience. That was probably a wise decision on his part.

I read Consilience when it first came out. I'd heard a lot of people speak with a tone of somewhat breathless awe and reverence about E.O. Wilson's books, and I work in a field where some of Wilson's ideas have had important and long-lasting impact. In the 1990's I think most of the breathless awe was about The Diversity of Life, a book I put down in the middle of a busy college semester and never picked up again (rare for me to set down a book and never finish it). On the shelf right above the computer where I'm typing, I've got a copy of The Ants and of The Insect Societies. Many sociobiologists will tell you that The Insect Societies is the book that got them interested in studying social insects and social behavior. While I own a copy, I haven't read it cover-to-cover; it's a historical reference work for me.

A lot of LIAM is a direct conversational response to Consilience, pointing out where the logic in Consilience is sloppy and wrong (hint: many, many places). The trouble with this is that because LIAM is in such direct dialogue with Consilience, a lot of LIAM's other important points won't necessarily reach audiences through time, because Consilience itself is a forgettable book (aside from where academic institutions are today, in terms of "blah blah interdisciplinary blah blah death to the humanities blah blah science all the things").

This is probably okay for LIAM. I think many of the other points in LIAM are things that Berry has worked to convey in his other writing, more effectively. So LIAM can exist as a counterpoint to another book from the same era.*

But I want to get back to this thing that irritates me tremendously. Here it is: Wilson is what I'd call an "ideas guy." He has lots of ideas, so he writes about all of them at great length and publishes lots of books. But he's sloppy. So some of his ideas hold up through time (island biogeography theory!), while others are just wrong, and then a lot of other people have to spend a lot of time and energy carefully clarifying why those other ideas are wrong, and hope they get listened to because they don't have the same halo of fame surrounding them that Wilson has. And Wilson typically doesn't come back to carefully revisit his previous ideas: he just moves on to having other big ideas on other topics. (typically.)

Here's another example. Wilson just wrote a book on "the deep origin of societies." Thankfully, a writer for the scientific journal Nature read, carefully reviewed, and critiqued it along with 2 other books on almost the same topic. If you are able to read the critique, I think you'll see you probably don't need to read this latest book by Wilson. Save your mind for other things.

But I'm curious. What do you think? Should the pen get wrested away from Big Ideas Guys? Am I too unforgiving?

[Part of my unforgivingness stems from the general publication glut. Keep your "minimum publishable unit" to yourself until it's substantive, people!]

And on that note, time to go back to grumpily reading way too many papers on the evolution of cooperation in groups.**


*One other difficult arena in LIAM for me: Berry is a White Male Colonist. I don't know if he's ever addressed this aspect of his identity directly, but through my current lens it's a little hard to read some of what he's writing from the basis of his identity as an American Farmer. On the other hand, he tries to be explicit and honest about who he is, and I do appreciate that, and he clearly advocates for being sensitive to the particularities of place and context. It's probably unfair of me to ask him to solve colonialism.


**Seriously, this topic has been a huge timesuck and mental drain in my life, starting in grad school when I first started working with ant queen foundress associations. There's too much muck to wade through.

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Kayak trailer project: Photos

Here's where we are right now with the bicycle-powered ocean touring kayak trailer project:

[personal profile] scrottie working on setup for test riding:

A-quaxing we will go

Current trailer iteration:

A-quaxing we will go

Problems: There's going to be too much torque on the tongue, one of the biggest issues with the previous trailers. The weight of steel used is also a little *too* flexible, so the whole thing is pretty darned wiggly and apt to drag on the ground. Right now, part of the tongue is also a bit too long. We can at least fix the third part pretty easily: S is going to shorten it so the trailer is centered behind the bike instead of offset to one side.

We are also thinking to add more diagonal supports between the rectangular frame and the arm. I have to admit I'm not particularly optimistic about this fixing the problems.

I suppose another possibility would be to build out the rectangular part and then get the towbar that goes with the hitch.

We shall see.

We can still manage to do quite a bit with our current trailers, although I wound up deciding to have the Despot cut the pictured 2 x 6 board in half because 8 feet is pretty long.

A-quaxing we will go

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A Seamy Post [rain jackets]

The post about stuff and housing that I mentioned yesterday is actually a follow-up post to an earlier one called "Kondo and the Bibliophibians, which I also found to be highly worthwhile reading because it did such a good job of articulating why Marie Kondo's blithe remarks about how many books a person should own came off sounding utterly tone-deaf to a significant (if not substantial) portion of the U.S. population. Anyway - the reason I'm mentioning the original blog post here is it's a generally insightful examination of the ways that Americans relate to stuff.

And here is something that I value tremendously about my relationship with [personal profile] scrottie: he almost constantly encourages me to be more careful in scrutinizing how I deal with my stuff, simply by virtue of having a different relationship with his stuff compared to my relationship with my stuff.

I'll give you an example via one current dilemma: the purse that I've been using for well over a decade is starting to fail again at a certain key structural point. So, what to do. The American Way would be to throw it "away" and get a new one; S thinks I should try and convince the tailor around the corner to engineer me a replacement (or at least replace the piece of fabric that's failing. I...I'm still not quite sure about what I want to do about the whole situation. So I'm still running around with an old, ugly purse with a hole in it. The construction is slightly too complex for me to deal with on my own right now, but maybe one of these days I'll work up the courage. We shall see.

Anyway, all this brings me to the topic of rainjackets. While I was living in California, I determined that I would really like to get a Showers Pass jacket for bicycling around on rainy days. Magically, I eventually encountered one that was for sale, used, that was the correct size. I've basically been wearing it nonstop ever since, and here I must first confess that I'm terrible at following maintenance and washing instructions.

So I'll never know whether more regular maintenance would have slowed down the failure of the seam seals. What I DO know is that once the neck seam completely failed, the jacket was well on its way to becoming unuseable, because with this jacket, there's no stitching at some of the seams, only seam tape holding fabric pieces together. So, what next. Is the jacket doomed to the landfill, or are there other options?

Given how pricey the Showers Pass jackets are ($280 new!), it seemed worthwhile to try out the experiment of seam repair, a service that Showers Pass itself does not offer (probably not cost-effective). So I ordered some seam tape from Seattle Fabrics, watched a couple internet videos about seam tape application, got out an adjustable-temperature woodburning/soldering iron tool, and set to work.

I think the net result will be workable, at least for a while. There's definitely a learning curve to working with seam tape, and I'm not sure I quite know where I am on that curve by now. Here's an area where my tool temperature got too high (sorry for the terrible, blurry smart-o-phone photos):

Seams in raincoats

And you can also see a spot where I failed to get stuff to bond across all of the fabric layers.

On the other hand, my efforts at my second seam went much more smoothly, along the front zipper. And I should note that I put the jacket through the wash after I finished the neck seam, so it wasn't a complete failure. For the front zipper, I did an initial pass with an iron set to a low temperature, and then followed up along the edges with the soldering iron tool:

Seams in raincoats

Tool used:
Seams in raincoats

I'm more optimistic about the front zipper seam than about the neck seam.

To give you a sense of what is underneath the fresh seam tape, here's another region where the old seam tape is failing:

Seams in raincoats

So overall, there's some promise of an extended lifespan via seam tape repair.

---

Okay, now I want to take a second and contrast this Showers Pass jacket seam experience with another jacket I own. The second jacket here is a rowing jacket from Boathouse, purchased about 20 years ago, back in college:

Seams in raincoats

The Showers Pass and Boathouse jackets each have their benefits and drawbacks. The Showers Pass jacket has a slim cut, which is really fantastic for both bicycling and sculling, and it also has pit zips, so it is great in terms of ventilation versatility.

On the other hand, the Boathouse jacket is constructed with two fabric layers instead of just one. The inner layer is Gore-tex:

Seams in raincoats

AND, what that means is I was actually able to send my jacket back to Boathouse once, to have the Gore-tex lining replaced and get a couple other items refurbished (velcro updates).

This hasn't made the Boathouse jacket immune to the seam tape problems:

Seams in raincoats

But on the other hand, even with failing seam tape the Boathouse jacket is at least retaining its overall structural integrity. All told, it's in great shape for a 20-year-old jacket. And it's faring a million times better than my third (ancient) raincoat, which has recently decided to start completely disintegrating and leaving small, white, flaky bits everywhere. I believe Jacket #3 is a The North Face item, also dating back to my college days. Jacket #3 is destined for a landfill soon.

--

All told, I will probably continue to use the Showers Pass jacket the most heavily, for as long as it lasts, which I suspect will be up until I start wearing holes through the actual fabric. At that point, I don't think it can handle patches, so I'll be on to the next thing. But of course only after a period of ragtag indecision, as with the purse.

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Adulting renters insurance update

If you've ever read about insurance companies, you'll know that the way they're structured, they tend to punish loyalty: companies will start to raise rates over time. So whenever looking into insurance options, it's generally a good idea to do a little bit of shopping around to assess more than one option, and it's also a good idea to revisit the decision periodically and just plan on switching.

Super annoying, yes, but that's the world we live in, for those of us who are privileged enough to own things and do things worth insuring.

Anyway! Based on your suggestions and experience I just looked at Nationwide and Progressive (aka American Strategic Insurance). As of today, Progressive offered a slightly better deal for my personal circumstances (more coverage, lower price, equivalent deductibles).

So, done. Thank you to everyone who chimed in with perspectives and experiences.

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Bike commute

I hit and killed a chipmunk while riding my bike on an errand this afternoon. It darted out so quickly in front of me that there was no time to react - right in front of my front wheel. I turned back to check on it and moved it off the bike path and into the grass.

I think that's the first mammal I've ever killed with my bike.

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Things I need for Adulting

Yesterday, [personal profile] ivy linked to this post about what's currently happening in the US especially in large cities with housing shortages, tech booms, and consequent impacts on individual lifestyles + stuff ownership. [note: I think reading the post was strongly anxiety-inducing for me, due to having moved all over the place over the last 5 years, plus having certain kinds of job instability in my life, plus seeing a lot of what's described happening in cities like Seattle and the Bay Area. Also, I was buffered from a lot of this when living in the Bay Area but it was clear I was fortunate.].

Anyway, that post led me to this post on how to set up a home filing system. Super helpful and a thing I need in my life.*

Related to all that: Do any of you carry renter's insurance? Have suggestions on how to go about that?

Pretty soon here I'm going to need to go through that whole process of getting set up with a healthcare provider and dental stuff/etc. Again. I mean, again again, really. It's a little horrifying to not be set up with those things yet, but let me tell you, again, that's a product of how my life has gone over the last 5 years or so. And I'm highly, highly aware that I have the incredible good fortune to being able to push this stuff to the back burner for a period; I suspect the vast majority of people are not so fortunate and I am deeply sympathetic to how much harder that makes life when moving to a new place. (yay, academia) Also I am sure I will suffer some consequences of having pushed this stuff off (see: teeth).


*Edited to add: I have a home filing system at present, but was realizing that it's deficient in certain key ways (year-over-year management, specific categories). So that's a lot of what I'm getting from this post.

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