Mostly a Bike Ride Report

Day’s Verse:
And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.
Genesis 7:12

Yesterday evening Dad, Ian, and I watched Salt. Frankly, I’m astonished it got 61% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve rarely been more bored in an action movie, and I like action movies. The whole “Russians are the bad guys” thing felt so 30 years ago. That aside, they just tried to do too darn much in an hour and a half. The first half is a mistaken identity/quest to save her husband story and I kept watching because I wanted to see what happened to her husband. They devoted several minutes to their relationship, so you figure it’s going to be important. Then her husband is summarily shot and vanishes without anybody batting an eye, and the movie turns into a double agent/agent vs. agent scramble. For all that, it was predictable enough that we were able to call out all the twists before they happened. The only redeeming features were the Haagen-Dasz bar I ate partway through and the fact we didn’t pay for it. True Grit was way better.

Then today — drumroll please — I went for a group ride. Lots of people go on group rides all the time, especially on the weekends, but for me it’s a big thing. I almost never ride with strangers, but today a ride leader Dad knows and likes was doing a 45-mile, 4,000-foot climbing ride that sounded good to me. I’ve always thought they sounded really hard-core and too intense for me, but I decided to stretch myself and ride with this group, which Dad has talked about a lot. (Click below the fold to read my rambling thoughts on a rambling ride.)

A word on my bicycling in general: I’ve gone more miles this month than any of the last 4 months, yet I feel happy and rested and ready to GO when I get on my bike. I’m having no trouble riding 50 miles and farther with minimal aftereffects, when back in September I did a 40-ish mile ride and was exhausted at the end. Amazing what consistent rest and varying training can do.

While I was gone, Ian completed a Herculean task and cleaned his office completely. NO stacks of paper to be seen. You could’ve knocked me down with a feather when he opened the door and showed me his handiwork. Then he updated the Route Creator he made a while ago to include total ascent. And he did a bunch of other important chores, too. What a guy!

Continue reading “Mostly a Bike Ride Report”

Cookie Science

Day’s Verse:
“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the LORD.
Zechariah 2:10

Introduction
A cookie recipe was received and tested. The recipe as written included directions for 3 different baking temperatures and times. This study evaluated all three combinations, seeking to determine the best combination. Subjects were randomly selected and subjectively evaluated cookies, providing feedback on preference.

Methods
One batch of dough was prepared, strictly following the directions.

The dough was divided roughly into thirds. Each third was further divided into cookie-sized units using two teaspoons. Two batches of cookies were put onto black bakeware cookie sheets; the third batch was reserved, and put on a used black bakeware sheet after the first batch had been removed and the cookie sheet had cooled.

One batch was baked at 325°F for 12 minutes; the next batch at 350°F for 9 minutes; and the final batch at 375°F for 8 minutes. All cookies were immediately removed from cookie sheets and cooled completely on wire racks.

Subjects were provided with a representative cookie sample from each batch and polled on preference. This was not a blind taste-test, and subjects were aware of time/temperature combinations while consuming cookies.

Results
The first batch, baked at 325°F for 12 minutes, appeared slightly set and golden-brown all over when removed from the oven. They were soft when removed from the cookie sheet. When cooled, they appeared moderately crunchy.

The second batch, baked at 350°F for 9 minutes, appeared unset and very lightly golden around the edges when removed from the oven. They were very soft when removed from the cookie sheet. When cooled, they appeared crunchy around the edges but lightly cooked in the middle.

The third batch, baked at 375°F for 8 minutes, appeared slightly set and lightly golden all over when removed from the oven. They were very soft when removed from the cookie sheet. When cooled, they appeared crunchy around the edges and cooked through the middle.

So far, subject n = 4*. All subjects agree that cookies baked at 350°F for 9 minutes were most delicious, exhibiting desirable cookie qualities of crunchy outer edge and soft interior. Cookies baked at 325°F for 12 minutes and cookies baked at 375°F for 8 minutes were both deemed overall too crunchy. Cookies baked at 325°F for 12 minutes were considered crunchiest and least desirable, while cookies baked at 375°F for 8 minutes were considered reasonably good, but not as desirable as the cookies baked 350°F for 9 minutes.

Conclusions
Cookies in this recipe appear to bake best at 350°F for 9 minutes. Future research into lower cook times at 325°F may provide additional data points. All data are subject to suspicion due to the low n value. Additional subjects are requested for participation if available in the next 24 hours.**

* Including one self-professed “cookie snob,” who is discriminating about cookies.
** In English: This is your chance to have free cookies! Call me if you want to try the three cookies and give your input on which is best.

Best Movie Experience Ever

Day’s Verse:
The last and final word is this:
Fear God.
Do what he tells you.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Yesterday was Ian’s birthday. He turned, oh, approximately mid-to-late 20s. Age aside, we decided to celebrate by using our gift certificate to Gold Class Cinemas to see True Grit.

It’s difficult to describe how excellent the entire experience was. First of all, we dressed up. This made me realize that (a) I need to get a pair of nice shoes; (b) I’ve lost weight and my good dress doesn’t fit as well as I’d like; (c) I need to learn how to do long hair so it looks good. All that aside, I felt pretty sexy getting dressed up and going on a date, and that was fun. Also, Ian looks good in a suit.

Second, Gold Class Cinemas is super luxurious, despite their excessive fondness for the color orange. They had a lounge with a fireplace where we waited, looked at a menu, and ordered dinner — which we opted to eat during the movie. In the theater, we had a pair of huge, incredibly comfortable reclining seats that had a small table between them. On the table was a button to summon a server (I used it once, to get a blanket and more water). We received our appetizer shortly after the movie started. When we finished that, they brought our dinner and side (the fries were huge and delicious), and we finished with dessert a bit later. What really struck me was how quiet the theater was. Usually you hear people whispering, seats creaking, candy wrappers crinkling, etc.; conversations are totally out of the question. In that theater, we could have a low-voiced conversation without disturbing anybody else. It was so comfortable, I almost forgot I was in a movie theater. So the theater experience was superlative.

The movie itself? One of the best I’ve seen in a few years. It reminded us of Gran Torino. The acting was superb — Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, and Matt Damon could hardly have done better — the cinematography excellent, the music spot-on, the story compelling. It had many moments of unexpected humor, which contributed significantly to the overall tone. I lost myself in the movie completely. I suspect that we’ll end up purchasing the DVD eventually. Wonderful.

As I said: Best movie experience we’ve had, possibly ever. And an excellent way to celebrate Ian’s birthday, except that this’ll be hard to beat.

This Doesn’t Happen on a Bike

Day’s Verse:
“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the nations.”

Revelation 15:3

I got in the car.

I pressed the POWER button (the car being a Prius, starting it is more reminiscent of powering on a computer than turning on a car).

Nothing good happened. All the dashboard lights came on, some flashing alarmingly; the screen did not turn on; the engine did not turn on.

For a bit I just sat there and though, “You know, if I was taking a bike, this wouldn’t happen. The batteries never die on my bike.” Then I called AAA, and within 45 minutes a nice guy had come and given the Prius a jump, which is happily all it needed. The little 12V starter battery had drained down somehow. As I drove around aimlessly — the engine had to run for 30 minutes, not something the Prius does naturally; I drove up lots of hills — I realized that I was wrong. The “batteries” on my bike can run down, if I ride too many miles and my legs don’t have time to recover. I’ve had plenty of days I get on my bike and my legs start exhausted, and don’t get any better over the ride. Another potential equivalent experience is getting a flat tire on a bike, but bicyclists don’t generally need to call in help to fix that problem. Also this is maybe the 2nd time we’ve had to jump the car since we bought it in 2006. I can’t even count how many flat tires I’ve had in that same time.

In any case, it was funny how at a loss I was at first when the car didn’t start. It made me realize how little I know, or care to know, about how the car works. Just so long as it goes when I need it to go, that’s all I care about. It also says something that I felt weird driving to drop my bike off for a tune-up. I looked into all sorts of other options, and none of them really made any sense (3 bus transfers plus walking a mile just to get home from dropping my bike off? Give me a break!), so I did it the normal American way.

As It Should Be

Day’s Verse:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2:42

This is what our garage looks like right now, after I spent the morning cleaning it.

Garage Bike Space

Notice how the car occupies 50% of the space and the bikes occupy 50% of the space? This is the way garages should be organized. Forget hanging your bikes from the ceiling to be taken down a couple nice days in the summer, or burying your bike way in the back behind so much stuff you can hardly get it out. No, bikes as vehicles should be easy in-and-out access the same way a car does. And of course if you have to choose between parking a car in a garage and parking a bike in a garage, the bike should always win. After all, cars withstand the elements much better than bikes do.

Today I also closed two bank accounts and consolidated the money in one account; obtained a pull-up bar (for hanging from at my PT’s behest, I hasten to add, before you think I’m getting all athletic or something); and mounted said bar in my office doorway. I always feel absurdly proud of myself whenever I complete a project like mounting something. Something about pulling out the drill and level makes me feel all handy and talented, even though as home projects go this is about as simple as it’s ever going to get. The evidence suggests my forearm screw-turning muscles are not in good shape.

That said, I’ll also comment that yesterday we had a wonderful day completely unrelated to the garage, bikes, or pull-up bars. After church I took a nap. Then we made twice baked potatoes and lemon meringue pie (I saw it on the menu at Metropolitan Grill and simply couldn’t resist). Rachel and Ryan came over, and we all ate and played Gloom and watched Murder by Death. We all had a fun time hanging out, eating, and killing characters off. A good time was definitely had by all.

Pros and Cons

Day’s Verse:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Reasons I like biking alone:

  1. I get to do whatever I want.

Reasons I like biking with other people:

  1. Somebody to be company on the long miles.
  2. Somebody to help if I get a flat.
  3. Somebody to help if we get lost.
  4. Somebody to help pull when I get tired.
  5. Somebody to motivate me to finish.

Pretty easy arithmetic there, huh? However, despite this arithmetic, I ended up riding by myself today. Name a hill in the Kirkland/Kenmore/Woodinville region; I rode up it. Sometimes twice. I stopped only at stoplights, ate as I rode, and went my own pace up and down the hills. No waiting, no pausing, no worrying about getting left behind or leaving behind. But you know, it just didn’t feel as fun somehow, not having somebody besides Fast Bike to share those 45 miles with.

Not that Fast Bike wasn’t good company. She was awesome — swift starting from a stop, responsive in handling, zippy up hills, smooth on rough roads. The Dura-Ace components were noticeably crisp shifting. She does need a tune-up — the braking isn’t what it should be — but dang. That’s some bike. As I powered up Seminary Hill, I wondered to myself: “Why didn’t I do this a long time ago?” Riding Fast Bike transformed my ride from a workout to a delight. Now, though, I feel like I have some obligation to Fast Bike to, well, go fast. Tough job. After I got home and had a chance to look at Fast Bike, I made a new rule: No riding Fast Bike when the roads are wet. The filth! On me! On the bike! Everywhere! I’d forgotten what fenders do towards keeping a bike clean. Now I remember.

All that said, I still wouldn’t have minded riding with a real person. You can’t really have much of a conversation, between the wind noise on downhills and working hard on uphills, but just having company is its own reward.

On an entirely separate note, tonight Ian and I are going out with Mom and Dad and Gary and Deborah to the Metropolitan Grill for Ian’s birthday. He’s not as young as he used to be, so we’ll have to be sure to get home in time for his bedtime, but it should be a nice evening. My only challenge is finding something that’s not steak. Then on Tuesday night — Ian’s actual birthday — we’re going to see True Grit at Gold Class Cinemas, courtesy of StrataGen. I’m really looking forward to that. It should be an exceptional movie experience.

Satisficing

Day’s Verse:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13

How do you shop? Do you go to the store, find a product that meets your needs, purchase it, and leave without agonizing about it? Or do you prefer to shop around, comparing similar products from different stores ad infinitum? When I read Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, the author’s discussion of these two different types of people really struck me. She described the first type as satisficers. Satisficers find a product that meets their criteria and move on without agonizing about whether they could’ve done better elsewhere. The second type, optimizers, find a product that meets their needs, but then thinks, “But if I just keep looking, maybe I’ll find something better somewhere else,” and so they keep shopping around to find the best deal.

In the context of the book, the author talked about women who are satisficers as meeting a guy who was pretty good but by no means perfect, accepting him as a good option, marrying him, and generally feeling satisfied with their choice. They didn’t tend to chafe as much in their marriages because they had settled on a spouse and, even knowing he wasn’t perfect, weren’t agonizing about whether Mr. Right was out there somewhere else. Women who are optimizers, on the other hand, tended to either keep dating and rejecting guys because those guys weren’t 100% of what the woman was looking for. They keep holding out for Mr. Right. Or an optimizer would marry a guy, but then end up feeling dissatisfied because she felt like she could have done better if she’d kept looking a little longer. Not surprisingly, optimizers often ended up single and dating indefinitely, while satisficers tended to end up married to pretty nice guys.

The author, herself an optimizer, didn’t say “You should try to be a satisficer.” She did, however, talk about how women tend to create these huge laundry lists of characteristics that a potential spouse must have. For example, if I was single and I created a list of characteristics my ideal husband would have, it might look something like this (in no particular order):

  • Medium to tall height, preferably not more than 4″ taller than me (but definitely not shorter)
  • Brown or black hair
  • Slender
  • No facial hair
  • Athletic
  • Very into biking (and can do bike repairs)
  • Smart
  • Considerate
  • A Christian
  • Polite
  • A good cook
  • Funny
  • Responsible
  • Reliable
  • Has a good steady job
  • Willing to help with chores
  • Creative
  • Likes to read
  • Wants kids
  • Loves Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Likes hiking, snowshoeing, and backpacking
  • Good photographer
  • Dresses nicely
  • Etc.

Now, this list is just a very short version of what could probably go on for pages, if I kept wracking my brains. Ian has some of these qualities, sure. Does he have all of them? No, and here’s the important thing: No man alive has all these qualities. If I’d held out for a guy who had all these characteristics, I’d still be looking. As it is, I’m happily married to a guy who has many of these characteristics, particularly the important ones — responsibility, considerateness, politeness, reliability. Essentially, I was able to say, “I’ve found somebody I can live with, who meets most of the important criteria I have. I’ll go with him.” Satisficers like me take a good deal and move on, not worrying about whether it was the exact right choice. Optimizers, on the other hand, continue looking for somebody (or something, depending on the situation) who meets every one of her criteria… and, in most cases, she’ll keep looking forever and never feel satisfied.

Why do I bring this up (aside from the fact that it’s generally interesting)? Because a mere 5 days ago, I mentioned I was interested in getting a Fast Bike. On Monday, I test-rode the 2008 Jamis Xenith Pro I found on Craigslist. The owner, Lucy, is on the same bike racing team as my physical therapist. That irrelevant piece of information aside, I found the bike to be a good fit and a good price, and I liked Lucy — she’d been AmeriCorps and is going into Peace Corps. I paid her $750 on Monday, took the bike, and on Tuesday had Kirkland Bike Shop go over it. They gave it two thumbs up, so I wrote another $750 check and put it in the mail that afternoon. Now, less than a week after starting to look around, I own a new carbon fiber Fast Bike.

Fast Bike

Dan, my PT, recommended taking my time and scouring the internet for a good deal. He said, “You’ll love this bike. You want it to be perfect.” Several other guys I respect recommended a similar course of action: Spending a good long time looking, looking, looking for the best deal on the best frame I could find and then separately doing the same thing for the other components. (See where the satisficer/optimizer thing comes in?) They’re totally right; I don’t need a Fast Bike any time soon. I have until July. I could spend the intervening months test-riding bikes at bike shops, continually checking online for good deals, accumulating high-end components and ridiculously good prices, etc. But I, being a satisficer, found a solution that met my needs — the bike fit, it has excellent components, it’s carbon fiber, it’s well-cared for, it was in my price range — and so I went with it. Will I regret this purchase? Very, very doubtful. Because as a satisficer, I’m comfortable with the fact that I did well and now I won’t waste any time agonizing how I could’ve done better. You can always do better. Why worry about it?

Now please excuse me; I have a winged bike to fly.