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2010 Census: Please, please understand me and make me count

I wrote this article in March of 2010.  Jean, my neighbor, has since died.  

During the 1990 census, my aunt was asked to fill out the long census form. I am not sure what the long form asks now, but in 1990 it asked a lot of questions about type of housing: building types, size of building, indoor plumbing, heat, electricity, water, etc. The longer form also asked more detailed questions about the inhabitants. It queried regarding occupations, health, disabilities, education, methods of transport to and from work (biking, walking, carpooling, mass transit?), etc. I want to fill out one the long forms. I want to be more than a number, sex, race, and age.

I want to be described and understood. However, even with the long form, my apartment is not exactly exciting. It is typical- nothing unusual or interesting. A number would probably describe it adequately. (I would, however complain about my lack of central heating.) I might simply have to lie. “I live in a wigwam that is off the grid and has no indoor plumbing. The wigwam, however, does have central air energized by the manure-powered generator out back. I live part of the year here, but for 2 months I live in Sweden, 1 month a year in Morocco, and each July I take a month long retreat on Minnesota, focusing on fly-fishing and meditation. I have several vagrants hanging out in my front hall closet until the rain stops.” I have never been offered the long form.

I am not sure what the long form is asking these days. Do they still ask about carpooling, buses and whether you are on the grid? Are they now asking about internet access and phones? “Do you or anyone living with you have a Twitter account?” I am curious about internet access and how many people actually own computers. I think having a home computer with an internet connection is akin to having a diamond ring- a fun luxury. Being a little on the overindulgent side, I have both. However, so much of life these days seems to be done over the internet and not having home internet access now would be a large hassle (as opposed to a diamond ring, the lack of which leads to no real inconveniences at all). Many businesses and services act as if everyone has easy access to these expensive items and services. I wonder how many people actually do.

When I lived in Baltimore, people lived in run down condemned houses with lead paint, no heat, no water, and no electricity. Houses burned down regularly from the kerosene heaters people used to heat themselves. Now everyone I know has a cell phone. I seem to be further and further away from the squalor these days. I wonder if everyone in Baltimore now has a cell phone.

My husband has one of those handheld computer phones. The cost of running one of those things for 2 months is equal to the cost of a dinner for 2 at Cesar’s. I would much rather have the dinner at Cesar than 2 months of email going to my back pocket. The point is not quite valid, however, since my husband’s email still does go to his back pocket and we go to Cesar’s a lot more than once every 2 months.

I am going to try to find the Irish/English/Portuguese/French/German/etc box on the form. One of the doctors at my work asked me about my ethnic background and I said Irish and Portuguese (my answer for this question varies depending on my mood.) He replied “oh- a fiery combination.” I don’t think anyone has every described me as fiery and my husband was highly amused by the descriptor. The census form, however, offers me only “White,” which is hardly descriptive either. I think I prefer fiery, however inaccurate the adjective may be.

My neighbor came over to my apartment this morning and gave me my census form. I am apparently an 85 year old Chinese woman with very poor hearing and poor understanding of English. She mistakenly filled out my form. (Actually a kind neighbor filled it out for her.) She also filled out her own census form, so we have double the number of old Chinese ladies living on my floor and my husband and I are clearly absent.

She was given the regular short form, too. She keeps catching her kitchen on fire and I think we are going to have to insist her stove be turned off soon. She forgets that she is cooking and then goes off for a nap. She is just getting old and is forgetful. The census questionnaire doesn’t have a box on its form for that either.

Day two! Touring in Oregon: Ashland to Fort Klamath

79 miles. Ashland to Fort Klamath

It has been two weeks since the completion of the Oregon cycling tour and I haven’t unpacked yet.  However this morning, I finally hung my tent up on the balcony  to air out and dry and then decided to write up day 2 of the tour.

It rained overnight, so everything was wet and clean in the morning, except my chain, which was slightly rusty.  Michael was the last person to get his stuff on the truck, so he continued to meet his goals.

I had never actually packed up the tent on my own and it is a task at which I do not excel.  Jason packs everything up tightly and gets all the components onto a teeny tiny sac.  He has figured out the best and most efficient way to pack the tent.  “Follow the fold lines,” he instructs.  I loosely folded the wet tent in the air trying not to get it more dirty and paid no heed to fold lines.  By the end of the 2 week trip, I simply stuffed as much as possible in the sac with no time wasted on any silly folding process.  Every time I packed up the tent, I could feel Jason’s disapproval.  When Jason and I were first together, he, with disapproval in his eyes, would watch me pack my own clothes and then he would unpack everything I did and repack it “correctly.”   After about 20 years, Jason decided that doing everything himself was more work than having me do things not quite right.  In general, I could be said to have won.  Our apartment is a disaster.

We left camp a little after 8 am and arrived at the restaurant with pie at 0930.  The little cafe was full of cyclists and 3-4 of them were already drinking beer.  I thought it  a little early to be either drinking beer or having another breakfast, so I asked Michael to order me a hot chocolate (with whipped cream) and headed off to the bathroom.  This restaurant has amazingly slow service.  I believe that only two people were working there: the cook and a very pretty female teenager who served.  I really didn’t want to miss my opportunity to order the hot chocolate, since who knew when my next ordering opportunity might occur.  Michael, of course, forgot my hot chocolate.    I was annoyed and Michael was annoyed to be causing disappointment.  “You should have known I wouldn’t remember and not have trusted me.”   Michael got over his annoyance of having been forced to disappoint someone, by realizing that the missed hot chocolate order gave him a chance to go and talk to the pretty teenager again.   He gleefully ran off after the pretty girl and placed my order.

We were at this stop for what seemed like hours, but we eventually did hit the road again.  The roads were beautifully smooth.  I don’t think that I have ever ridden on roads that aren’t full of pot holes.  It was a nice experience.  The cars were very polite, since being polite is an easy thing to do in such a sparsely populated area.  Much of the trip was in tall trees.  I appreciate trees in theory, but I am fond of large open vistas and I was really happy when we came out of the trees into open ranch land between the mountain ranges.  A yellow street sign along this stretch warned of “congestion.”  The congestion consisted of 4 farm buildings.

View from the top of the climb out of Ashland

Trees and smooth pavement

congestion ahead

Ashland got a huge quantity of rain after we had left.  Everyone, but Mary, enjoyed a completely dry ride.  Mary got drenched.  It rained in Oakland.  It never rains in July in Oakland.  We however, lucked out and I arrived dry and happy with my unused rain jacket.

I liked the camp grounds.  I was awoken again and again by the howling of wild dogs (coyotes?) and that was kind of cool, too.

Response to “lost art of the group ride”

Last year Peter Wilborn’s article lamenting the current state of group riding was spread about the country through a variety of cycling list groups and facebook postings. I first ran across this article when a fellow club member posted it to the Oakland Yellow Jackets email list and the poster agreed with the article and also bemoaned the current stated of club riding.  I responded with the following letter, which I am reposting here.

Begin quote:

I have several issues with the yellowjackets group riding habits and people who know me will be familiar with my rants.  I like riding in groups and I like the yellowjackets, but I prefer not to paceline with them.  The advanced group vacillates between being aggressively fast pacelining or chatting pacelining.  The aggressively fast version is often hostile and unfriendly game playing, not simply fast.  We would be faster if we were behaving in a more efficient manner.  During the chatting pacelining, people are simply not paying enough attention to the road and other riders and is dangerous for the obvious reasons.  However, if that is what the group wishes to do, then that is what we will do.  I will just ride off the back.

Despite these reservations, I have received a huge amount of support, information, skills from other cyclists and continue to do so.  I do not think that the art of a group ride is lost.  I have learned so much from other people and still do.  I am very thankful for the cyclists, with whom I have been lucky enough to ride.  These people are still around; they didn’t disappear 10 or 20 years ago.

I spent Sunday riding with my friend Jack.  Jack is like the color white; he hits every frequency.  He is constantly irregular.  His speed varies greatly and he often coasts, though at irregular but very frequent intervals.  You try riding 100 miles with him and not become a more attentive cyclist.  Despite these quirks, Jack is a great cyclist.  He has put down about 10,000 miles a year for the past 10 years.  He knows a lot and you can learn a lot from him.  He is friendly and interesting.  The route I rode this weekend is one I would never have known about or done.  He figured out the route and did the reconnaissance.  It was 111 miles of beautiful roads and not a foot of “junk miles”.  We actually had a stream crossing.  Jack wanted to cut out an ugly and slightly dangerous section of road (dangerous due to boat trailer traffic).  He found the site of an old, now missing, bridge and we crossed a stream by foot at that point.  The route was unbelievably pretty and the roads had almost no traffic.  It was one of my favorite rides ever.  I would never have done this route on my own and I am very grateful for knowing Jack and for him inviting me to do this fabulous ride.  I don’t recommend pacelining with Jack, but he has many other redeeming qualities and my world has been broadened by knowing him.

I ride weekly with a gpc group.  Bob is a font of knowledge about rides and routes and riding with him is great.  Mark is my favorite wheel.  He is the most constant and steady wheel I know.  I do whatever Mark tells me to do and that policy hasn’t lead me wrong yet.  He has been helpful to me in both hints on how to be a better cyclist and by demonstration.  He has been very supportive of my cycling and I am grateful to know him.  Michael, my regular partner in crime for during-the-week short rides, has also been very supportive and enthusiastic, introducing me to other groups.   Riding with this group has made me a better cyclist, a faster cyclist, and a happier person.

Despite my complaints about the yellowjackes, I love riding with them.  The group is full of people I like and respect.  Alexis, Chrissie, and James immediately come to mind.  However, I would like to especially thank Charleston, who literally taught me how to be a cyclist.  Other than Jason, my husband, Charleston has been the most supportive of my cycling.  Charleston is also one of the smartest cyclist I know.  He reads traffic well, he picks good lines, and he is constantly paying attention to the situation and environment.   He was very kind to me when I first started cycling and I will always be thankful to him.


Group ride: Duros West without Bob, our fearless leader. Alpine Dam. Me, Michael, George, Mark, Sabi

Day one! Touring in Oregon

I had no real business going on a 12 day supported cycling tour in Oregon, but I decided being prepared was overrated and went anyway.  We started in Ashland, cycled a bunch of days, and ended up back in Ashland 12 days later.  I had a great time.

I was the only person with a tent that required staking.  Tents that require staking are stupid.  Actually, the tent was fine for the first 7 days and then it was stupid.  After some point banging stakes into the ground with a hammer just became something I never wanted to do again.  One day, I was unable to stake the tent at all, because the ground was too hard.  I had to get Pete to stake it and then Michael to de-stake it the next day.

Deet is the only mosquito repellant that seems to work.  The instructions on deet tell you to apply only to exposed skin, to avoid your eyes and mouth, and to not apply under clothes.  My only exposed areas were my face, neck and hands. The mosquitos easily avoided those areas and bit me through my clothes.  I had 9 bites on my ass.  The little suckers chased me down as I climbed slowly up to crater lake and bit me repeatedly through my cycling shorts.  I had multiple bites on my legs from sitting around in camp in my long pants.  I had no bites on my exposed areas protected by deet.  I am not sure how to deal with this problem.  I might have to tour next year completely naked, but slathered in deet.

Our first day of cycling was a choice of 2 rides.  We were staying at Ashland for the first day, so both choices ended back at camp.  Both had about a 4500 feet of climbing.  Michael wanted to do the Dead Indian loop.  (The road is called Dead Indian Memorial road, but I do not know why.)  This loop is 47 miles long , contains a 4000 foot climb, and sports pie at mile 33.  I showed up ready to go at Michael’s tent.  He was still in his regular clothes.  His goal for the tour was to be the last person back to camp each day and since he is not the slowest rider on the tour, he worked hard at being the last out of the camp each day and then he stopped each day for a long lunch if he had caught too many other riders.  He looked at me and told me to make myself a sandwich.  “It’s only 47 miles and we are having pie at mile 33; I don’t need a sandwich,” I countered.

“You’ll be really unhappy, when we all stop to eat our sandwiches and you don’t have one,” he said.  Michael can either talk or get ready to go.  If you stand near him and talk to him, he goes into some time warp, where time means nothing and he just yammers along telling slightly offensive jokes.  Realizing that we would never actually hit the road unless I left him alone, I went off and made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The Dead Indian climb was nice.   I got the tour’s first flat.  Michael saved the day by using his good eye to find the little wire that had caused my slow leak.  Michael has one eye surgically set for up close vision and one eye for far away vision, so he is brilliant at seeing small stuff.

The pie place had pie and a large group of us spent about 2 hours sitting on the cafe’s porch, discussing Marionberries, a past DC mayor, and Michael’s sex life.  I had eggs over easy with toast.  I have never been able to confuse berries with dessert.

We got within a few feet of camp when we decided that we might as well do the second route, too.  The second route was shorter, but climbed Mt. Ashland.  By the time I got to the top of Mt. Ashland, I was out of water, out of food, and out of body warmth.   Michael knew that a dilapidated building contained a sink, so I was able to refill my water.  I realized that I was not actually out of food, but that I had a glorious peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my pocket, so we sat in the cold, ate our sandwiches, and looked at Mt. Shasta in the distance.  Mt. Shasta is rather pretty and this exercise was rather pleasant.

The 17 mile descent was colder than the climb.  Michael knew of a lodge half way down the descent and we stopped there and warmed up with hot tea and coffee.  I was shivering rather uncontrollably by this point and drinking hot tea in a hot room was great.  I hadn’t even noticed this place.  Michael has a nose for food and knows where all detours might be.

All in all, the day was a success.  We got a lot of climbing done in a very pleasant manner.  Michael saved the day by insisting that I make myself a sandwich, finding the wire in my tire, knowing the location of secret garage sinks, and suggesting that we stop at a lodge to get warm.

We were the last people in by about an hour and a half, so Michael made his goal, too.

View of Mt Shasta as we ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from atop Mt. Ashland.  Andrea rode part way up Mt. Ashland with us trying to see Mt. Shasta.  She didn’t really want to climb Ashland, but she really wanted to see Shasta.

Welcoming sign outside the lodge where Michael and I warmed ourselves half way down Mt. Ashland.

Dead Indian Loop with out and back up and down Mt. Ashland.

Light housekeeping

I can no longer close my freezer door; the freezer is so badly in need of defrosting. I really am a dreadful housekeeper. The built-up ice is bending the freezer compartment. Some people complain about how non-fast cyclists really shouldn’t have nice or expensive bikes. Someone slower than you or someone with less experience than you shouldn’t have a nicer or more expensive bike than you, or at least that seems to be a common feeling amongst cyclist. “When you start cycling, you should have a humble bike.” I have never really met an overly proud bike, but I think I understand the sentiment. I am never quite sure when you have ridden enough or exactly what speed you have to obtain before you can buy an over-priced or light bike. I think that perhaps we should apply this practice to other arenas. Slow joggers would be required to wear clogs and wouldn’t be allowed to wear running shoes until they can do 8 minute miles. Only people with adequate housekeeping skills would be allowed to buy an apartment and only people whose floors can be eaten off of would be allowed to buy a house. I would be restricted to living in a tent.

still life with bike

Dog park

I prefer hiking, but the dog likes dog parks, too. I have no pretty pictures of the Alameda Dog park, but here is a picture of the wonder poodle with the wildflowers .

I went to the dog park today.  I prefer going hiking with Sacha, the wonder poodle, because I find it less boring than the dog park.  However, the dog likes the dog park.  Today’s trip reminded me of this note I put on Facebook.  From August 26, 2009.  

At least children get older and change. Puppies become dogs in about 2 minutes and then stay dogs and I have been listening to the same inane conversations about dogs for the last 11 years. My dog does the same thing everyday- day in and day out- nothing new. I go to the dog park and I am bored. The dog is happy, delighted even, but I am not a dog and I am bored. However, other people, hereafter known as crazy dog people or CDP, stand around, fascinated, and describe the activities of their dogs- in detail. “How funny: she just ran around the picnic table and stopped.”

At first glance this obsession with one’s own pet might not really seem that notable, but people do this everyday. Not just once, but daily for the entire length of their dogs’ lives and then they get another dog and do it again. “Oh look, they are just standing around and staring at each other. Oh, look, now they are running.” The CDP stand around in groups watching the dogs and give a play-by-play update of all the dog activities “Are you hot Caspar? Look at him just sit and pant. No sitting at the dog park! GO play” Despite the fact that the dogs are actually doing nothing or are, in fact, doing exactly the same thing they did yesterday. “Is that a squirrel? Do you see a squirrel? Is that a squirrel in that tree?” They, then create conversations that they imagine the dogs are having. “He’s saying ‘come on play, play’ and she’s saying ‘I’m hot leave me alone.'” “My dog’s telling your dog that that the other dog is saying that your dog’s mom wears army boots.” Honestly, my husband must have said that sentence at least 1000 times during Thea’s life. Does that sentence even really make sense? (Well actually, in context, that sentence did make sense. In order for you to understand the army boots statement, I would have to give you a blow by blow description of how Thea played, which would be unnecessarily boring and cruel.) “OK now, everyone sniff each others butts.”

I am starting to prefer discussions about other people’s children. A discussion of some kid’s book report is not actually a conversation I have daily and tomorrow that mom will be discussing something else about her kid. I won’t have to relive the same daily book report conversation for 10 years. Alameda Park is full of CDP, while Piedmont Park is oddly not. I am not sure the reason for this distinction between these groups. Piedmont discussions concern business travel, teacher/child relationships (how’s Caitlin getting along with Mr. Garrigan?) softball (did you sign Jonathon up for the child pitch league yet?), prom dresses (I may have hit my limit on conversations about prom dresses), dating, and alcohol and drug consumption. I like the Piedmont group as parents. They seem a little critical of their children, which, as a bystander, is far more amusing than the usual baby worship. As I stand around watching my dog smell a tree, I have a much better chance being amused by a funny story if standing next to some dad complaining about his 17 year old boy.

However, I have lost all patience with discussions about a child’s supposedly remarkable brilliance. In all cases, I have found that discussions about a dog’s intelligence to be far more interesting and actually more impressive than discussions about some kid’s superior intelligence. Kids are nowhere near as impressive as parents seem to think they are, whereas stories about dogs can (on admittedly rare occasions) be quite amusing and impressive. My favorite smart dog was one who could open a deadbolt. This dog’s intelligence was further enhance by the fact his owner was a moron.

My husband is, in fact, a CDP and thinks I should stop fighting and just join them. Though, he will put his head down and walk away if someone starts talking about training methods or mentions dominance. “NO HUMPING!!”

In general, I sit alone on urine-drenched plastic lawn chairs and plan my escape. My dog has bad recall and doesn’t come when he doesn’t want to come. I used to carry around cut-up pieces of handmade, organic, locally farmed, locally produced and (obviously) expensive salami in a small ziplock bag in order to bribe my dog to leave the park with me. In a stunning flash of brilliance on day, I realized that I was actually insane and replaced the salami with chicken hot dogs, which work just as well. My dog still only leaves when he wants to leave.

I need to figure out how to work my ipod.

Good day, good dog: 2010 Mt Tam ride report

Sacha, the wonder poodle

While looking through old notes on facebook, I found this ride report from 2010.  My mind had let these memories slip for some reason and I am happy for the reminder of that day.   I now remember that I was very happy during this ride and then for several days after the event.  Jean has since died.  

First of all I DNFed the Mt Tam double today, but despite that I had a very good ride. I had been very anxious about the ride for a couple of reasons. The first reason was due to an unfriendly letter that the ride organizer sent out last year, about which I was still annoyed. The second reason was that I was likely not to make the lunch time cut-off or the final cut-off. Time cut time limits make me stressed out and I spend the entire ride obsessing about speed and distance, elapsed time etc if I am close to the time limits. If you are close to the time limits, they recommend starting at 4am to give yourself more time. This approach sounds nice, except for the 2 am wake-up call. I hate getting up at 2 am. My recent average speeds indicated that I was likely to make the time cuts, but my speed varies a lot. Not making the time cut was also quite probable.


1) Everyone in the Marin Cyclists and all the volunteers were very nice and no one acted like I shouldn’t be there.

2) I made the lunch time cut by almost an hour. I was clearly going to make the time cuts and this assurance made for a nicer ride. I had a great ride. I went out hard. I rode faster than I usually can ride and I had a higher than normal average speed for that amount of climbing. Furthermore, I love riding in Marin. I rode much of the ride with Gabrielle, which made the ride very enjoyable and faster.

3) DNF: My knee started hurting around mile 35. I rode well until about mile 90. After mile 90, I stopped being able to stand and I wasn’t able to put much power into my pedal stroke from my right knee. I had a hard time starting the bike and a hard time clipping in. Even on small hills, I needed to drop into my lowest gear. I decided that I would pull out of the ride at the Coleman valley loop cut-off. I really wanted to make the cut-off, just to prove to myself that I did it. I have plans for other rides in this month and I didn’t want my knee to be injured by riding another 75 miles that included both the Marshall Wall and Coleman. I rode the 123 miles faster than I usually ride flatter 200ks. I am happy that I ended the ride on on upnote. I wasn’t injured badly and I had a fast and good ride.

4) 2am wake up call: I set my alarm for 2 am Saturday morning so I could start this silly double at 4 am, an obscenely early time. At around 1 am, our poodle started to bark. Jason lost it. He woke up and severely chastised the dog for barking. I then got angry at Jason for getting angry at the dog. Jason and I then tried unsuccessful to get back to sleep for one last hour. In the background I could here a faint alarm. The alarm wouldn’t have awoken me, but now that I am awake, I find it annoying. “Why would someone have an alarm set for 1 am. (who am I to talk?) If your alarm was set for 1 am, why aren’t you getting up and turning it off. Just ignore the alarm and relax and go back to bed. That alarm sounds familiar.” At this last comment, my brain suddenly clued in. I jumped out of bed and left my apartment to find the hallway filling with smoke from our elderly and completely deaf neighbor’s, Jean’s, apartment. Firefighters were called. After much ado, I finally roused our neighbor’s son, who lives on the first floor. Another neighbor who has keys to Jean’s apartment was awoken first and he came and finally got in to her apartment, which was completely filled with smoke. She had left a pot on the stovetop, turned the burner to high, and had then gone to bed. Since our neighbor, Jean, is almost deaf, she didn’t hear the alarm. I pulled the fire alarm pull for the first floor and the 3rd floor and NEITHER fire pull worked. Unbelievable. Jean is ok. Her bedroom door was closed and unlike the rest of her apartment had not filled with smoke. Our hallways still reeks if the smoke tonight.

Jean’s family cooks her dinner each night, so her son unplugged her stove to prevent a reoccurrence. We have had a number of these types of occurrences, but this was by far the worst incident and the only one for which the fire department was called.

I am stunned by how much effort was needed to wake people at 1 am and I can’t believe that our fire alarm pulls didn’t work at all.

So after all that, I wasn’t all that upset about alarm clock going off at 2. We were already awake. I am really happy that the dog woke us up when Jean’s smoke detector started beeping and I am glad that the apartment building didn’t actually catch on fire and I am happy that our elderly and deaf neighbor is ok. I am particularly happy that her stove has been unplugged.

All in all I am pleased pleased pleased with how the day went.