November Thoughts

The sun comes up in one minute, at 7:22 am, today. It sets at 4:26 pm, but odds are we won’t see it for any of those nine hours and six minutes, thanks to the (likely) thousands of feet of cloud cover above us. Granted, that cloud cover seems to be coming down as fast as it can, drenching everyone in the process.

On days like this, everyone on the bus steams and drips and tries to keep their dampness to themselves — at least a token gesture that’s appreciated, even if in practice it’s utterly futile. Little streams meander off every umbrella and down the floor.

On days like this, traffic snarls to a halt, an ocean of watery red lights reflecting off wet black tarmac and wet dark cars. Colors don’t exist beyond the well-lit confines of our bus; outside, through the foggy windows, we see red taillights, white headlights, and gray everything else.

On days like this, people who moved here from warmer, sunnier climes–pretty much everywhere that isn’t Alaska–start feeling depressed. They remember the California sunshine, so reliable even in November, or of the bright dazzle of sun glinting off snow, or the bursts of autumnal leaves backlit with glancing afternoon rays. They forget the misery of drought, the constant shoveling of snow, the endless raking of leaves. How can we live this way for another five months? they wonder.

What I think of is the glory of the Olympic Mountains, dark indigo and white in the distance, with water gray-blue below and the sky coldly blue above. I think of the evergreen trees coating the rolling Cascade foothills like a dark green blessing, hazing off into snow-capped peaks. I think of the silhouette of hillsides vanishing into mist. I think of the joy of Christmas lights twinkling through the dark and reflecting off of rain-wet roads, doubling the glitter.

I don’t think about all the wet, dark tomorrows. I think about the bursts of clean-washed beauty that come between the rains.

Yes, my heart sinks at my inevitable damp clothes, my soaked-through rain jacket, the need to stuff shoes with newspaper every night and hope they’ll dry before morning. But I love this place, and every day, rain or shine, I am thankful to live here.

Where Is Heaven?

This real conversation (paraphrased here) happened tonight as I said goodnight.

B: I feel scared alone upstairs. (We’ve discussed this before, numerous times.)
Me: You’re never alone. Jesus is already with you.
B: I thought Jesus was in heaven.
Me: (thinking quickly, wanting to avoid confusion about the Trinity) Jesus is everywhere.
B: Does that mean heaven is everywhere??
Me: …Ask the pastor at church next time you see him. They study this stuff in pastor school.

Bit of a cop out, but it’s amazing how quick a five-year-old gets into murky theology. I’d love to explore that, buddy, but not as part of your trying to stall going to bed.

Eating Time and Dessert Nights

My relationship with food is definitely a love/hate thing. It’s like a combination of the feeling of getting to stay up late at night when you’re a kid, the feeling of having to take some nasty pink antibiotics, and the feeling of having to mow the lawn.

Well, when Benji came along, Ian and I decided to take a stand in two areas: Sleep and food. I wanted Benji to have a healthier relationship with food than I did.

Throughout the littlest-kid years, we defended naps with the vigilance of a mother tiger over her cubs. Sleep was tough, sure, especially during sleep regressions and when we hit developmental milestones. Is it time to go from two naps to one? How do we do it? Yet, ultimately, we controlled that to a great extent. That is, we could at least control when we put Benji in his room and when he was allowed to come out: We carved out the time for healthy rest, and for the most part, he took it.

Only since school started this September has he really seemed to give up napping, and even so, he still falls asleep occasionally during “quiet time,” which we still do for at least an hour a day after lunch.

Anyway, boy, food has proved tougher. You can’t make a kid eat! Eating or not eating — from Day 1, it’s the first place that little person asserts his independence. You can’t make me eat!

Long story short, we eventually settled on offering a variety of mostly healthy foods and telling him to eat until his tummy wasn’t hungry anymore.

But over time this evolved into Benji wanting us to quantify how much food he had to eat to be done. We would suggest a number, and he’d take that many bites, no more or less.

Then it got worse as, at dinner time, the question turned into: “How many bites do I have to eat to get dessert?” No matter what we said, this always resulted in whining and negotiating, claims that no reasonable human being could eat six bites of pasta AND all the peas, we were practically monsters in parent form, etc., etc.

About a month ago, I was talking with a friend at church about this misery and she mentioned that they just have dessert nights at their house. The kids pick two nights a week when they have dessert; the other nights, they just don’t.

I loved this idea, and combined it with another idea I heard elsewhere many years ago: Serve dessert as part of dinner. It isn’t a reward, it isn’t some kind of treasure you have to dig through a pile of gross food to get to. It’s just another part of the meal: You get protein, veggies, carbs, and a little bit of something sweet — emphasis on little. Dessert should be small enough that the kid isn’t full, and still wants some real food after eating the sweet part.

We started implementing the dessert night idea immediately, and I have to say, it’s been great. We don’t negotiate anymore. If it’s a dessert night (Benji picked Monday and Friday), I give Benji dessert along with everything else on his plate. Of course he eats it first — but then he goes on to eat a pretty substantial amount of his real dinner, too, with no complaints, whining, or stalling… or at least, none related to how many bites he has to eat. He’s still a kid, after all, and I don’t expect him to fall upon kohlrabi with cries of rapture (I know I don’t!).

We aren’t being completely straight-laced about this, mind you. Sweet treats happen at other times and on other days — with grandparents, at a friend’s house, at church, whatever — but dinner has sure gotten a lot nicer. But we are trying to focus on healthier foods that provide real nutrients, so this fits with that goal synergistically (if that’s a word, and if it’s not, it SHOULD be).

So that’s that! For now, anyway, we’ve broken free from the tyranny of dessert. Hooray!

Cyclistically Speaking

I haven’t been blogging as much because I’ve been super busy at work, and — this may be shocking, so sit down — after day in front of a computer screen writing I don’t feel much like spending the evening in front of a computer screen writing. But I’m going to break that today, because the Seattle Times published an article that infuriated me so deeply, on so many levels, I have to address it.

The article: “Spokane woman is standing up to cyclist who yelled ‘Hot pizza!’ and then smashed into her on trail

OK, let’s set aside for the moment the fact that The Times used some pretty emotionally charged language in the headline — “smashed” and “standing up to” both carry some notable emotional connotations — and let’s take a look at the article.

It describes this scenario:

A lady and her friend were walking side-by-side down a shared-use path where other people were also out walking, including some moms with strollers and people with dogs. As the lady walked along, a guy riding his bike approached from behind and yelled, “Hot pizza!” Then the cyclist hit the lady, who had kept walking along the same way she’d been going. The cyclist started cursing the lady for not getting out of his way, although there was plenty of room to her left to pass around her. The lady suffered a fractured elbow, and the cyclist re-broke a recently healed broken wrist and broke his nose.

The cyclist apparently yells “Hot pizza!” because people misinterpret “On your left,” the traditional salutation of cyclists passing slower trail users. The cyclist seemed to expect the walking lady to interpret “Hot pizza!” as a request to move out of his way, and he kept riding as if she was already out of the way… and then got angry at her for not moving. Other witnesses affirmed that there was plenty of room on the trail to go around.

The cyclist said he didn’t slow down because he doesn’t like to slow down.

Let’s break this down from a cyclist’s perspective.

First, I wasn’t there, but based on what I read, the cyclist was unequivocally in the wrong. When riding on a trail, cyclists have responsibilities:

  1. Be predictable.
  2. Ride at speeds appropriate for the conditions. If there are lots of other trail users, slow down.
  3. Be prepared to stop at any time.
  4. Yield to ALL other trail users. As the fastest-moving vehicles on the path, we have the greatest responsibility for all users’ common safety.
  5. Pass other trail users with at least a couple feet between. If you’re passing people walking or riding two abreast, wait until the trail is completely clear and then go around after clearly communicating with the other trail users.
  6. Ride single-file. (I appreciate when slower trail users, who hear me call out, move from two abreast to single file, but it’s not necessary.)
  7. Use some kind of auditory signal well in advance of passing slower trail users. Call out with plenty of time for the person you’re passing to figure out what’s going on and respond. If “on your left” doesn’t get a response, try “coming up behind you” or, better yet, ring a bell — you don’t even have to speak English to recognize that sound! It’s the cyclist’s job to communicate clearly, and calling out “Hot pizza” definitely doesn’t communicate clearly.
    NOTE: “On your left” does not mean “Move out of my way,” or “I have the right of way.” It’s a polite notification that you’re going by and a request that the other trail user doesn’t move into the space you’re about to occupy as you pass them. It’s 100% appropriate for slower trail users to just keep going on in a straight line having heard you; it’s extra-courteous if they choose to move right a bit. The only thing they shouldn’t do is dodge to the left unexpectedly.

Second: I know it sounds totally egregious for the cyclist to say “I don’t like slowing down.” Of course, you should slow down to avoid a collision. Keep control of your bike and don’t hit people — seems elementary, but some things need stating explicitly. But honestly, I know that feeling. Momentum is a terrible thing to waste, as they say; when I’ve finally gotten some speed up, I certainly don’t appreciate having to brake for some unpredictable pedestrian or their stupid little rat-dog on an extending leash and then use a bunch of energy to get speeded back up all over again. I much prefer rolling smoothly along with fewer stops. But that’s not how riding on shared-use trails works most of the time.

When I commute on the Burke-Gilman, I ride from Fremont all the way to Bothell, something like 15 miles on the trail, including going right through the heart of the University of Washington and along some very pedestrian-heavy sections near parks. I see everything on the trail — people walking, jogging, strolling, walking their dogs, walking their children in strollers, walking their dogs in strollers, walking their birds, pushing BBQs, you name it; and, more and more, I see lots of people wobbling along on the super-cheap bikeshare bikes (fodder for another post), weaving all over and stopping and dodging unpredictably. Through it all, I remain prepared to slow, stop, or swerve; I ride defensively, predicting collisions and actively avoiding them; and I call out or use my bell continually.

Do I want to slow down for all these people? No. I want to get home. I have 21.4 miles to cover, and I already know it’s going to take at least 75 minutes, possibly more. I want to get rolling and not stop until I get home. Yes, sometimes I get grouchy and don’t want to slow down, because this is the 492nd person who has stepped into my path; but that’s why I have a bell. I ding-ding the heck out of that thing, and everyone knows what I mean and I don’t even sound as grouchy as I actually am. And I slow down, because ultimately I’m responsible for the well-being of everyone slower than me on that path when I’m going by them.

Third: The cyclist in that story said he had something like 25 broken bones from riding. He expected to break bones and get injured while riding. This, more than anything, speaks volumes about his entitled and inappropriate attitude. I’ve ridden 75,850 miles since July, 2008 and in that time, I’ve had two significant crashes, one resulting in a minor concussion, neither resulting in broken bones. One time, I was hit by a car (story here and here); the other my front fork failed as I braked. The latter could, conceivably, have been my fault, for following too close to an unfamiliar cyclist, although the fork shouldn’t have failed like that, either. That was in 2010. I haven’t had a crash of any sort since then — riding in groups and riding alone; riding fast and riding slow; riding pregnant; commuting in the city and in the suburbs and on trails. All without mishap.

In any case, I think it’s a tribute to the efficacy of courteous, defensive riding that in all those miles, I’ve never hit any little old ladies or broken any bones — mine or other people’s. This is what we should expect from all cyclists, and it’s not a hard thing to achieve. But it requires actual teaching of bicycle skills, the same as you learn how to drive a car. Parents teach their kids to pedal and balance bikes, but they don’t teach rules of the road or rights and responsibilities of cyclists.

This is one of the things I really believed in with the Bicycle Alliance of Washington (now Washington Bikes, although apparently pretty much consumed by the vast amoeba that is the Cascade Bicycle Club) and with the League of American Bicyclists, for whom I taught many Bike Ed classes back in the day. I sincerely believe that better education for cyclists — maybe even mandatory education — is crucial to ongoing successful relationships with all the users of our infrastructure.

Okay, it’s implausible to imagine most people getting real, honest-to-goodness bike education. But most cyclists tootle along perfectly safely and courteously, getting from Point A to Point B (or, if it’s a recreational ride, maybe just back to Point A) without hurting anyone.

That’s why I’m irate at this story (not the Seattle Times, just the actual events). That bicyclist is a fluke, the equivalent of the driver with sleep apnea who, several times, killed passers-by while having fallen asleep behind the wheel. Does this mean most drivers are deadly? Or even most drivers with sleep apnea? No; it shows that one guy had colossally bad judgment.

In the same way, this one cyclist doesn’t represent us. He’s a clearly selfish, thoughtless, unskilled rider who’s willing to put himself and others at risk for minimal gain. The way the article is written, though, it almost sounds like he’s speaking on behalf of cyclists. I kept waiting for them to get to a quote from Cascade or some bicycle authority disavowing this behavior, but never found such a thing.

Certainly this will give non-cyclists more fodder for howling about those darn irresponsible dangerous cyclists injuring innocent people. While that’s certainly not behavior to tolerate, the fact is that such collisions comprise such a minute, infinitesimal, microscopic — is there any other way to say “tiny”? — proportion of all bike crashes that any response is going to be way out of proportion with the risk.

So, yes, I’m pissed off. I’m pissed off that an irresponsible jerk has gone and made all of us look bad, and now we’re all going to have to suffer as a result.

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep on riding defensively, courteously, and legally. My goal, since I became a bike instructor, has remained the same: Avoid collisions, and if I can’t avoid a collision, make darned sure it’s not my fault.

Labor Day, School, and So Much More

The New Car

Yesterday marked the one monthiversary of buying our Bolt.

New Bolt!

Since we bought it, we’ve figured out that:

  • My bike fits in the back, but only with the seats all the way down and the passenger seat squeezed all the way forward–leaving room for only the driver. Clearly before we replace the Prius, I need to get a hitch-mounted rack for the Bolt.
  • The car has at least 300 miles per charge. Ian drove it for two straight weeks, just about 300 miles, without a charge.
  • The radio turns on every time we turn the car on, and so far we haven’t found a way to turn it off.
  • It feels like riding a bike: You’re very aware of ups and downs, since you’re paying close attention to energy usage; and it has a hand brake paddle on the steering wheel that lets you slow down or even come to a full stop without ever touching the foot brake.

Ian and Benji use the car the lion’s share of the time, since during the week I exclusively travel by bus or bike. It’s the first time I’ve actually wanted to drive the car… but not into downtown Seattle. I can’t believe how many people are actually willing to sit through the misery we call a commute in their single-passenger vehicles.

It’s been quite the month.

Labor Day Weekend

Benji, Dad, and I had a very fun Labor Day weekend, hitting Alki Beach and Twin Falls on back-to-back days.

Twin Falls

Twin Falls 2017 - 1

Twin Falls 2017 2

Twin Falls 3 - Benji on a Rock

Twin Falls 4

Benji at Twin Falls 2017

Twin Falls - Snoqualmie River

Twin Falls - Snoqualmie River 2

Alki Beach

Alki Beach 1

Alki Beach 2017 - 2

Alki Beach Labor Day Weekend 2017

Alki Beach 2017 - 3

Alki Beach 2017 - Tidepools

School

Benji’s half-day kindergarten at ORCS started on September 11.
First Day of ORCS Kindergarten
I think it’s going well, although to be honest, I hear very little of how the day actually went. All I can really say is that Benji goes, and then I see him in the evening and he probably has a craft and is tired-hyper. But anything in between — going to school, having lunch, doing the afternoon with someone — I just trust is happening.

But overall, from the little snippets I do hear, Benji is liking half-day kindergarten. We’ve started keeping track of our reading hours, and so far it’s about an hour a day. He also said he likes having his best friend Will in class with him, and his two favorite parts of the school day are free choice and recess. Just about right. I tried to ask about academics, but aside from being really excited about doing colors this week, I haven’t heard much.

So far, Benji’s remained astonishingly healthy, but he’s been sniffling and sneezing lately, so I expect that’s about to change.

At Benji’s 5-year doctor visit we determined he’s totally normal in terms of physical growth and such. The doctor did refer us to Children’s for an assessment of large and fine motor skills as well as speech. That’s still pending.

Meanwhile, we’ve had two weeks of school and no pattern set yet. Next week will be another week with no pattern, but starting in October things will hopefully settle down.

Work

My work has gotten increasingly busy. I like it, and I haven’t dropped any balls yet, but I’m starting to get close to full capacity. I have a secondary project that I’m really excited about, but it’s taking a long time because release notes and release-related content updates always take top priority. This release cycle, which finishes on release night on October 19, has a number of big stories that require quite a bit of time to document.

I’ve been bringing my work laptop home on the weekends in the hopes of getting some work done, but somehow I hardly ever do. It’s work I love, but weekends are so full, especially with wanting to spend time with Benji and Ian since I don’t see them as much during the week; biking; and (importantly) catching up on sleep (hopefully).

What a Week!

Read whatever intonation you want into that title, I’d say it’s accurate.

Sunday

Benji listless and droopy. Took his temp: 102F. Administered Tylenol and videos. Ian left to drive to totality zone. Benji slept and drooped and I gave him more Tylenol. Had 100% exposure to his virus in the first 15 seconds of his feeling really bad.

Monday

Had the day off, which was good, because it was busy and Ian wasn’t around! Benji was feeling better, but his throat was really sore.

But Uncle Gerard was here for a visit, so Benji glommed onto him and I didn’t have to do much.

Hopelink donation and food bank tour. Benji still a little sick after 102-degree fever on Sunday (and maybe Saturday.)
Hopelink Food Bank Tour

Eclipse.
Eclipse 1

Eclipse 2

Eclipse 3

Eclipse Tree Pinholes

Play with Gruncle Gerard.
Benji and Gruncle Gerard

Tuesday

Ian test-drove a Bolt and loved it. We decided to buy one. Started the process of buying one and getting all the details sorted for that. With a regular car you don’t have to worry about installing a fueling station at your house, but with an electric car, you do! Sadly, PSE ended their charging station rebate program last year, so no free charging station for us.

We plan to go on Friday after work to do all the car-buying paperwork.

Wednesday

I start feeling under the weather. Take a bus home and by 9:00 pm have 102-degree fever and vomited once (dehydration and hunger, I suspect; careful consumption of liquids and calories resulted in no further such episodes. Still… ugh). Clearly not going to work Thursday.

Thursday

Sick all day in bed. Fever remains through afternoon, though feeling a little better by evening. Fever goes away by evening and doesn’t come back, but tonsil area of throat getting extremely sore. Can’t swallow much. Benji complained on Monday of it hurting to eat, and he was RIGHT! Oww! Blaze through our strategic apple sauce supplies in no time flat.

Still not going to work, but a very kind coworker dropped off my laptop so I could do work on Friday.

Friday

Home Sick
Feeling much better although still can’t swallow at all. Subsisting on sherbet, smoothies, and apple sauce.

New Bolt!
Good thing about being home was I could meet at 1:00 pm to do car paperwork! This was extra-good because it took like two hours with everything, so I was glad we didn’t start at 4:00 pm. Pretty darn excited.

Struggled to swallow enough pasta to prepare for a bike ride of some sort the following day. Only a few weeks out from P2P, this was to be a major peak week of riding. Determined not to let stupid sickness stop me.

Saturday

Decided to join Dad for his super-hilly ride and just see how long I can hang on. What I didn’t realize until 45 minutes before the ride started was that the ride began not in Woodinville (a 5-minute ride away) but in South Kirkland (a 25- to 30-minute ride away). Needless to say I rushed off in quite a panic and fortunately remembered everything, but arrived at the start a little less fresh than I might’ve hoped.

I liberally dosed myself with Advil during the day and that helped keep the sore throat tolerable. Swallowing Clif bars was not exactly a joy, but I didn’t cry in pain, either. I saved that for the hills, which started and pretty much never stopped.

It was as good an approximation of P2P as I’ve done this season, although previous years we did more. It’s not been my best year, and I expect to be even slower on P2P than previous years… but with all the illnesses, especially the summer ones, and my job and our family dynamic evolving, I’ll just consider finishing a success this year.

In any case, on Saturday I just felt grateful to have enough energy to keep riding and not get dropped, and finish the ride (as much as anyone finished). In fact, overall, I felt decent — not super fast or strong, but certainly able to keep going. Now I just have to manage not to get sick between today and September 9…

Also, Benji and I got CSA veggies and found rainbow glass chips in the parking lot.
CSA Rainbow

Then, after I put Benji down for bed, Dad and I took the Bolt out for a spin. The dashboard lights up at night.
Bolt Night Lighting

Sunday

Church at Newport High School with a zillion other people. Hot. Benji ran around while we quasi-listened/quasi-made sure he didn’t vanish. Astroturf bits got all over our shoes, pants, and blankets. Tried really hard not to get them all over the inside of our car.
Church in the "Park"

Got home and collapsed for a while.

…Need I say explicitly that our family of routine-lovers is looking forward to a nice, normal week this week?

Solar Eclipse!

Today has been a heck of a day.

First thing in the morning, we donated Benji’s entire giving jar, saved up over the course of a year, to Hopelink. It amounted to $55.50. We also got a tour of their food bank and the warehouse, and Benji got a good idea of what his $55.50 will do.

Then we watched to eclipse, which was the coolest thing I’ve seen, bar none. I carefully traced the pinhole image of the sun at consistent time intervals to capture the change over time. Benji, my uncle Gerard (who flew up from San Francisco to see Benji), my parents, and I all shared a couple pairs of viewing glasses as well as using the pinhole camera.

Between watching the eclipse, Benji colored a rainbow with chalk. When he finished, he had adults tell him what color we thought each was. Because Uncle Gerard was here, we skipped over obvious color names like light blue and went instead to nomenclature as sea foam.

There was great discussion over a color I would have just called pale pink, but which Benji wanted to call skin. We pointed out that skin came in lots more colors than just pale pink. Ultimately Uncle Gerard’s submission, peony, prevailed.

But after the fact, we were discussing Benji’s inclination to call that color skin. We joked that, really, we should have called the color alt-white, given how the current political climate is going.

After that, Benji built a Lego set and then napped. While he did that, Uncle Gerard and I went for a nice little walk.

Overall, a very successful day off work.