Accidental Poetry

Day’s Verse:
Better a bread crust shared in love
than a slab of prime rib served in hate.

Proverbs 15:17

Back story: My co-LCI on the Bike Alliance trainings* said she always brings an extra wheel to classes. I asked if it was necessary for our trainings, since the schedule was so tight and we didn’t have time for fix-a-flat. When I received her reply, I couldn’t help but read it as poetry. She wrote, with this exact formatting,

I will bring one or two along. My usual way of handling
It is to leave it to the end for those who want
To stay and learn. Sometimes a few want it,
sometimes not.

I can’t help but read this the same way I’d read a haiku. And frankly, although I gave you the background, it really stands alone.

And, in other literary news, Ian and I received our copy of A Wise Man’s Fear. To forestall the inevitable fights over who gets to read it first (I hate having to beat Ian up; it’s so bad for our marriage’s morale), we’re reading it aloud. We did this successfully with the final Harry Potter book back in 2007, taking a total of 19 hours over 2 days to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows aloud in its entirety. Unfortunately these days we have other claims on our time, so we haven’t blazed through A Wise Man’s Fear at quite that blistering pace. We’re making respectable headway, though, enough to give Patrick Rothfuss credit for writing a sequel that lives up to the first book. Most sequels don’t.

Speaking of books that don’t live up to my expectations, I just received Revelation Space from the library. I got it on the recommendation of a bookstore employee, and I waited a while for it. Now, frankly, I’m disappointed. It’s hard sci-fi and the blot is complex, to say the least, both of which are OK. Unfortunately the book lacks anything to help the reader bond with the characters, and the author heavy-handedly conceals important plot points from the readers until it’s time for the astonishing reveal. But since the reader generally knows as much as the characters do, those omissions feel kludgy. Actually, it’s like an exceptionally complicated Isaac Asimov book in many respects. I’ll finish it because I want to know what happens, but I probably won’t pick up another book by the author.

Finally, I have You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto waiting in the wings. More on that when I finish Revelation Space.

*The first of which is coming up next week in Lynden. This time I made a list and am much calmer.

Train the Trainer #1: Canceled

Day’s Verse:
The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.
Proverbs 10:19

After all the preparation and buildup, the class I was supposed to teach — officially called the Train the Trainer for the Safe Routes to School Bicycle & Pedestrian Skills Education program — got called off due to inclement weather. It was a double-whammy: Lots of snow falling and expected to fall in Snoqualmie Pass, and snow/rain, near-freezing temperatures, and high winds expected in Mattawa for the foreseeable future. (Which isn’t very far, when it comes to weather.)

I feel conflicted about this: On the one hand, it’s a reprieve, and it didn’t force me to try to tackle the extremely uncomfortable (to me) prospect of go over the pass while it’s snowing. For all we lived in Massachusetts for 7 years, I never drove in the snow and I’m as bad a snow driver as the next Washingtonian. The shape of my week has dramatically changed, since I’d written off Sunday through Tuesday for the training, and planned to spend Wednesday in Seattle at meetings. Now I have “free” time for those days, although I have other BAW contract work I have to deal with, so it’s not really free. I did get to go to church today, a nice surprise.

On the other hand, I wanted to get the first training out of the way, since I know that once I’ve done a few, I’ll feel much more confident conducting the trainings in the future. I had the car packed and my materials ready to go; the coordinator had hotel rooms reserved, the teachers had subs lined up, the district had a room and all the materials other we needed. We had a meeting scheduled on Wednesday with WSDOT and OSPI to debrief how the training went. All that is out the window now. I’d really like to fast-forward to, oh, mid-April. By then I’ll have taught enough of these to have it be routine (I say with great confidence now).

In any case, I spent today going to church, then going for a rainy hike around St. Edwards with Dad, then taking a hot soaky bath to defrost. Now I think it’s time to make some macaroni and cheese for dinner. Tonight is “eat food your spouse doesn’t like night” at our house. Ian bought flank steak for his dinner, planning on my being in Ellensburg tonight, and even if he had enough to share, I admit the prospect of bloody meat still turns my stomach. Ian, on the other hand, feels ambivalent about macaroni and cheese. This is our perfect opportunity! He’ll eat bloody meat and I’ll eat cheesy carbs and we’ll both be happy.

I hope tomorrow is a nice day. I’m ready for a nice long bike ride.

How I Spent My Afternoon

Day’s Verse:
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
Matthew 8:26 (context)

Playing with crayons! Specifically, black and yellow crayons to make a practice intersection for the class next week.

Practice Intersection

Partway through I had an epiphany: If I don’t indicate which way the lanes are going, I dramatically increase the number of scenarios we can play out. At the same time I realized that we could use post-it notes to flexibly indicate lane type. We’ll use really cool working miniature bikes and try out different scenarios of where you should position a bicycle in the lane, where you should start moving over, where you should scan, and so forth depending on where you want to go through the intersection. I prefer hands-on playing over lecturing when I teach.

I guess I’m as prepared for Monday as I can be. It’s going to be rocky (and, more than likely, freezing, rainy/snowy, windy, and horrendous…and that’s just the weather!), but whatever happens, Tuesday evening I’ll be home with some interesting stories to tell.

Numbers I’ve Never Seen Before

Day’s Verse:
Live wisely and wisdom will permeate your life;
mock life and life will mock you.

Proverbs 9:12

…at least not when I’m standing on a bathroom scale. Here’s me on the scale in regular clothes before the backpack:
112 lbs

Here’s what Ian described as “heavy reading,” my backpacking backpack crammed full of 85 Traffic Skills 101 student manuals to deliver to the Bicycle Alliance:
Heavy reading

And here’s me on the scale wearing the backpack:

Gosh, I’ve never been anywhere near 150 lbs before! Ian was right, this is heavy reading! A little quick math indicated I was carrying just under 40% of my weight in that backpack. I mentally patted myself on the back at my clever solution for how to get 40 lbs of books to BAW without driving downtown. A backpacking backpack, I reasoned, is designed to carry heavy loads. Granted, this wasn’t food, water, clothes, tents, sleeping bags, etc., but what does the bag care?

Then I realized that carrying 40 lbs on my back really wasn’t a big deal at all. Parents carry their children in backpacks all the time, and don’t think of it as some extraordinary feat. But since I don’t have kids, I’ll just count it a success having eventually gotten the Traffic Skills 101 manuals to the Bike Alliance on a snowy day sans car or even bike. ‘Course, I spent 3.5 hours traveling for 2 hours at the Bike Alliance, thanks to the snow and buses with chains on that could, as a result, travel up to only 30 mph.

My gosh, the first class is THIS MONDAY. …It’s gonna be OK. It is. It is.

Things 1, 2, 3, and 4

Day’s Verse:
You don’t want to squander your wonderful life,
to waste your precious life among the hardhearted.
Why should you allow strangers to take advantage of you?
Why be exploited by those who care nothing for you?

Proverbs 5:9-10ish

Thing 1
Sun breaks yesterday.
Winter Garden

Thing 2
I tried making the cheesy bread Ben mentioned on his blog last week.
Crusty Cheesy Bread
I decided to keep the loaf sealed, rather than cutting it in quarters or half as the recipe said. You can see the result. Overall as bread it turned out well; the crispy crust, fairly light innards (although I still prefer the no-knead bread for interior lightness). As far as the cheese goes, it ended up with just a thick slab of cheese right down the middle. The recipe calls for you to flatten the dough into a rectangle, sprinkle the cheese, and then seal it up again. If I did this again, I’d probably roll the bread out a bit thinner and then do multiple rolls to get a swirl of cheese in the middle, like you do with cinnamon rolls. We enjoyed this bread with homemade tomato soup that I’ve had frozen since summer. I can hardly wait for tomato season again.

Thing 3
The first Bike Alliance teacher training is in 10 days. This morning just before I woke up, I dreamed I was back at WPI and I had overloaded my class schedule. I was overwhelmed with the number of papers I had to write. I felt panicky and unable to handle everything. Finally I gave up and started trying to decide which classes to drop so I could keep up with everything. Subconscious message, you suppose? I can tell you right now that every time I think about the first training in Mattawa — and, indeed, the next trainings in Lynden, Sedro-Wooley, and Auburn — my mouth goes dry, my stomach clenches, and a little voice inside my head starts screaming in terror. The voice keeps saying “I’m not ready I’m not ready I’m not ready” and then follows up with “and I won’t be ready, I’m going to fail, the trainings will be a total failure and the teachers will leave not having gotten anything out of it and I’ll look incompetent and…” –and it goes on. Whenever this happens, I take a big breath, tell myself, “Calm down, it’ll be OK,” and then bury my head in the sand.

Thing 4
The sand has, lately, been The Count of Monte Cristo, which weighs in at 1,400 or so pages and is thick enough that I had to prop it on something to read it comfortably. My prior knowledge of the story came entirely from the 2002 movie of that name. Let the record show that the movie is to the book what sugar is to a cake. The movie took the first 100 pages of the book and discarded the remaining 1,300 pages.

In the book, Edmond Dantès thinks of himself as an instrument of Divine retribution against the people who wrongfully imprisoned him; it’s not just a personal vendetta, but a God-given mandate. There’s no romantic Hollywood ending where he kills the bad guy and gets Mercédès back. Instead, the Count maneuvers the four people who betrayed him into horrible deaths (or madness, in the case of one) after taking away everything they loved. Mercédès and her son (not, incidentally, secretly Edmond’s son as the movie had it) end up destitute and miserable.
After doing an unnecessarily elaborate good deed, the 40-year-old Count sails off into the sunset with a teenage slave-girl.

Most of the time the Count is a character in the story, but the reader spends more time following the lives of people the Count is ruining than the Count himself. By the end the reader feels ambivalent: Whey the slave-girl says “Oh you’re so good, you’re an angel!” I have to admit I thought, “That’s not the term I’d apply!” The plot is dense, complicated, follows the history of at least two totally incidental characters in detail unknown to today’s novelists, and leaves the reader breathing a huge sigh at the end.

Now that I’m at the end, I can’t avoid the things I’ve been avoiding: Bonney Lake bike audit report edits and figuring out the nitty-gritty details of the teaching I’m committed to. Last night Ian reminded me, “You’re doing this because you want experience teaching bike classes so you can go out on your own.” Right. That’s right, that’s why I’m doing this. …I sure hope it’s worth it.

Bike Class Day 2

Day’s Verse:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever.
Galatians 1:3-5

IT’S OVER!!!!1 Woo!!

…that is all I have to say about that right now, except to add that I’m extremely tired.

OK, I will add that all 5 of the remaining students came, and I got the sense that we did a good job engaging them and getting them to think about bicycling and bicycle safety in a new light.

PS – This is unrelated to bicycling, but I’m super excited about it: Ian and I have ordered a bed frame and two side tables, all of which were on sale at Bothell Furniture. Oh boy!

Bike Class Day 1

Day’s Verse:

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:30-32 (context)

Day 1 went well, all things considered. We got into the building, had all the materials we needed, everybody showed up, and nobody fell asleep. We survived.

Day 2, we’re bringing lots of ice water and sunblock. It’s all outdoors and the forecast calls for 92°F weather. There’s a heat advisory. We’re setting up a tent for shade in the parking lot where we’re doing the drills. I’m glad we made on-road so short.

More later!