Sunday, December 30, 2007

For Ray and the Mrs

Y'all were contemplating the worst thing your mother made. You mentioned liver.

My mother would dredge liver in Tang and flour and then fry it in onions.

Top that.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bikin' to da bar (Winter Wonderland mix)

I took the Schwinn out for its shakedown cruise to see Jim and Kevin at HC to pick up a messenger bag and some lights. It felt so good to be back on the bike again that I didn't go home, but went to Town Hall. I haven't ridden a single speed since I was, what, ten or twelve years old. But the simplicity is a real asset when riding in the snow and slush of winter. That, and the Nokians. Studded tires are the shit. 'Nuff said.

It's geared really low (like 38/18), but I think that if I were to gear it up, the back tire would spin more. I also don't want to put any more money in this thing than I need to so I'll have to deal with it. I need to keep some sort of decent chainline and to use the outer chainring would be a bit too far of a stretch I fear. I'm going to pitch everything on this and probably turn it into an Xtracycle this summer, so it just has to get me through the winter. Truly, the definition of a winter beater...

I'm off from work this week, hence the blogging spew. I'm just cleaning the house, building a new server and working now and then at the liquor store plus a little freelance thuggery for Ray. It's nice to have a purpose...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Music

Christmas season has ended, or at least pretty much and with that comes the end of the &*!%*+=!$% Christmas music. I don't have anything against carols, but that's not what we play at the store. Instead we have the XM radio "Holiday" channel. Crimeney, every song celebrates the birth of Santa with Rudolph and the other wise men or some such thing. Look, call it the Christmas channel, I didn't hear any other seasonal song, so at least be honest fer crissakes.

One of the worst parts of that channel is the fact that I've heard rendition after rendition of "The Christmas Song." It's a maudlin piece at best (when Nat Cole tolerably sang it), but now every hack with a microphone covers it and each one more treacly and brain-dead than the last. It's like every goofball that picks up an electric guitar and plays "Stairway to Heaven." Stop. Just stop. It makes my head hurt to listen to some soul-patch sporting dork breathily wheeze that tired tidbit in a way that makes Johnny Mathis sound like GG Allin. Four or five covers of that turd an hour, that's gonna leave a mark. I would like to issue a Golden Hand Grenade to the winner of the suckiest version to James Taylor for his dirge-like rendition -- a moaning, lifeless cover that really shows me the Meaning Of Christmas. His limp bleating makes the death of a dear family pet more exciting than Christmas. To suck this bad takes a lot of work and he beats out such "talent" as Kenny G, whose painful, siren of a saxophone treats the song like my dog treats a beef rib.

Also, why is "Winter Wonderland" a Christmas song? There's nothing there about Christmas except snow. It snows in February, but it isn't played then. Christmas occurs in Australia in the bloody beginning of Summer. Hell, they play the shit out of that song before the Solstice, so it's not really winter either. I'm old enough (and Minnesotan enough) to remember the best cover of this one -- Casey Jones' Walking In My Winter Underwear. (Is there nothing that isn't on YouTube?)

"Frosty the Snowman" is another non-Christmas song that gets played at Christmas. Just because Rankin-Bass turned it into a cartoon doesn't mean it's Christmas. This is second in the list of the most overplayed "classics" I've been forced to enjoy. This is a stupid song and nothing else need be said about it.

Most annoying single rendition of a song goes to Mannheim Steamroller's "Deck the Halls." Mannheim Steamroller is for people who find the Boston Pops too challenging. Take the tympani and the synths and go away. Now. And take the Siberian whateverthehellthey'recalled with you.

I also hope that a special pit in Hell is reserved for the idiot that wrote "Jingle Bell Rock." My stomach immediately starts to flip at the sound of that guitar intro and I do my best to run for cover when that shows up. I hope you have footmen there -- everyone who's ever covered the miserable tune. The writers of "Siver Bells" and "Home for the Holidays" and anyone who covers them should have neighboring pits. With extra brimstone, please.

I could go on, but you probably have been in malls, restaurants, elevators, nursing homes, garages, etc and you've heard one or all of these gems. But anyone who works in retail knows how I feel and the Donut Guy is one of 'em. But, today, we're back to the same shitty, non-Christmas music.

And it's wonderful. Except for that really execrable song "You're Beautiful." I don't know if that's really the name of it, but since that phrase is repeated 700 fucking times, I'm gonna assume it is. That song should be banned. And the singer/songwriter forced to listen to James Taylor for eternity.

I'm glad there's only on New Years Eve song.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's alive!

The Schwinn has been reborn as a single speed winter bike. I finally got the chain length right (it would keep throwing the chain) and then the front tube exploded. I decided to run with the front wheel off of the Specialized and remounted the Nokia. Took it for it's shakedown cruise around the neighborhood and I'm really impressed what those tires can do. I've got better traction on my bike than I have with my car!

I stopped by the new HCWHQ to get a tool to remove the rear cassette from the freewheel. Jim suggested that I get a single speed freewheel for it instead of building out a whole wheel and I went with that. A new set of tires and fenders for Mrs' bike (a very fetching silver that looks good with the blue bike) and the Yam household is fulled winterized in the bike department.

Of course, I've never really biked in the winter, so I have to get used to it and that is going to be the challenge. Biking in mashed potatoes is considerably different than the streets I've become used to. But, that's fun of it. I think I'm going to set a New Year's Resolution to get to work more with two wheels than four.

I need to ride more -- I can feel the holiday eats settling down for a long winter's nap around my waist. That, and the fact the we are taking a trip to Portland, Oregon at the end of January. We're not going to rent a car, we're renting bikes and taking public transit and I want to be able to get around without wheezing so much.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Liquor store observations (part the first)

  1. When deciding what beer you want, close your mouth. You look like a retarded goldfish.
  2. If I can smell your perfume in the cooler, you probably have too much on.
  3. No, I don't have 40s of OE.
  4. I haven't tasted most of the wine in the store and I don't want to.
  5. No, I don't know which is the best White Zinfandel.
  6. Next time, write down the wine you liked on a napkin. I don't know "the wine with the guy on it or something."
  7. If you can't remember if is was Red or White, stop drinking completely.
  8. Phillips makes the best cheap vodka in our store.
  9. Kegs are, by nature, dirty things. Don't get mad if it makes a mess on your fancy leather upholstery. Bring a different car.
  10. I'm going to card you. I carded you the last time you were in and I'm going to continue doing it. It's not my rule. Deal with it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Baiku (for fritz)

Road salt stings my eyes
Truck strewn sand between my teeth
Sweet winter bike spice

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Winter biking (now with more winter!)

It actually snowed here. In December. In appreciable amounts.

As a winter guy, I'm floored. The past winters have been cold but without snow. Dustings here and there, but we'd have nothing but frozen ground well past December. Snowshoeing was, ah, dull. Ten below zero Fahrenheit with no snow sucks wet, hairy moose rocks from a winter sports perspective. But now we have snow and it looks like it may hang around (knocks on wood).

As Minnesotans, one of the peculiarities is to go driving around when there are snow storms, so during Saturday's snowfall, the Mrs and I drove around. We ended up picking up a couple of biking-related things: warm things for hands and heads and a bike. I'm glad Mrs is open-minded and cheap. I've been looking for winter biking mitts or gloves or something, but after the disaster that the Novara Headwind gloves turned out to be, I figured I'd think out of the box and find better for a whole lot less. Bikers need to use their fingers or at least more of their hand than a mitten would allow, but gloves leave the fingers exposed. Lobster claws are a typical answer, but they're expensive. Sure, windproof, waterproof, lets the skin breathe, yadda, yadda, yadda, but to they really live up to the hype? Generally, no.

Enter the fond memories of childhood and my trips to the army surplus store downtown with my friends. I love the smell of old canvas and the weird and wonderful things that are there. Especially Trigger Finger Mittens. Ten bucks a pair, built like iron and have room enough to wear gloves underneath. Got a pair for me and the Mrs. She also found a Balaclava and I found some wool gloves. No more cold hands and faces.

Winter footwear seems to be a discussion topic among a lot of bikers, and I'm not joining in as I haven't really biked all that much in the snow. But I do have something that I'm gonna wear -- Mukluks. Moose hide and wool felt liners. I've snowshoed in these things for years and I've never had cold feet, so I figger that I'll try them on the bike.

Oh, the bike. Mrs' younger brother has been away from home living in Alaska and now San Diego, so he said take his bike. Early 90's Schwinn hybrid. It's a mess, but so what. It's a winter bike. I need to get it into working condition, but that's an easy evening of tinkering. I'll probably dig around to find a rack for it and some tires (if these aren't any good) and we'll take 'er from there. I can't really ride the Bleriot in these conditions, now can I? Much too nice for the slop, snow and salt of the next couple of months.

Besides, it's cheaper than getting new tires for the Honda, which handles like a penguin in molasses in snow.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mrs Yam is harder than you are

I had today off (I guess it's a day off though I have to work at the liquor store tonight and I start my week long on-call shift) so while I and the dog were pulling some hard and fast ZZZZs, me darlin' Mrs biked to work. After her fingers thawed enough to type, I got an IM stating (in an exasperated and somewhat agitated tone) the temperature and her opinion of it. As this is a family-oriented blog, I'll leave the actual message received out and allow you think about it for yourselves.

There is a round-robin heated underground parking privileges where Mrs works, and her turn for a spot comes up next month. She passed it up, telling the office manager that she intends to bike throughout the winter. Freaked 'em out good, that did.

Rock on, hon.

Rock on.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dead dog or Our Energy Future

(No dogs were harmed in the writing of this blog)

MDM and I left Black Friday for Western Minnesota and a couple of State Parks that we haven't yet hiked, in this case, the Upper Sioux Agency and Blue Mounds. We drove out on highway 212 to just about Granite Falls and then south to the Upper Sioux Agency park. This is a beautiful park where the Yellow Medicine and Minnesota River meet with bluffs from both rivers creating hills and valleys aplenty. This hike keeps you up on the bluff where the Agency once stood and then drops you down into the Minnesota River valley. Vistas of river bottom farms, old oak forests up the sides of the bluffs and the sloughs around the confluence of the two rivers make this quite scenic.

We were the only people at the park so we decided to leave Sheila off her leash and see how she behaved. Our faith in her was rewarded as she skipped in the tall grass and shuffled from behind us to ahead of us nose down. The hike is listed as 4.5 miles and I bet she must have gone six with her weaving on and off the trail and the back and forth chasing mice in the grass. We did leash her up as we descended to the river as there deer and we wanted to make sure that she stayed with us. I don't think that I can overcome several millenniums of hunter that has been ingrained into my sweet puppy.

After that, we took State Highway 23 (which reaches from Duluth in the Northeast to Southwest corner of the state where Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota meet) through the Buffalo Ridge windmills. What a sight -- it was like looking at the future. Windmills turning as far as the eye could see, and in Western Minnesota that's a long way...

We made it to Blue Mounds and hiked on the top of the ridge between the buffalo range and the cliffs themselves. The wind was, ah, noticeable. It was chilly, but it didn't stop us from walking or the dog from a repeat performance of the up and back and the tall grass bounce. She caught the scent of a herd of deer, but they were a good 500 meters from us and they sprinted out of sight as soon as they saw her leap in the grass. As we made out from the Interpretive Center at the south end of the park, we came across a fresh deer carcass -- and I mean fresh. At first Sheila didn't quite figure out what she had there, but the nose told her what to do. She's really good and when we called her away from what was surely the most tempting thing she's seen in a long, long time, she reluctantly followed us down the path.

This hike is a 6.2 miler that is deceptive in that it is two loops, the main part of the park and then the Northern loop that takes you around the dammed up stream and through the slough by the campgrounds. I had thought that we'd get the Hiking Club word and head out in the Southern loop, and when we forced to do this second loop, I started to get mad. By this time, my knees were aching (due to a 5 hour pre-Thanksgiving day stint at the liquor store) and my ankle was beginning to seize up. I was also starting to bonk. We didn't bring our fanny packs, so there was no water and Cliff bars and when I bonk, I get cranky. It was also beginning to get dark and we didn't want to be looking for the path at night. So I just did what I do on my bike; I put my head down and was gonna finish this damned trek and get to the car and the Ibuprofen. We got to the word sign and saw that we had to go around a slough to get back to the car and I was really pissy by this time.

We made it back to the car eventually, we got water, I got Ibuprofen and we noticed we hiked the entire 6.2 mile loop in two hours. We had hike this park several years earlier when we were in considerably poorer condition and it took us all day. Two hours! Mrs Yam was ecstatic. Looking back at the GPS, we were hiking at around 3.5 - 3.7 miles per hour. No wonder my knees and ankle hurt. We headed into town and the dog hopped in the rear of the wagon and curled up in the jackets. She was wiped out completely.

As a reward for our daily triumph, we had dinner at Magnolia's, an absolutely fantastic steak house in Luverne. A couple of beers, a lovely pork chop and my spirit was back and we were ready to go home. We let the dog out for one last potty break before leaving and she was so sore she could barely get out of the car and couldn't get into the car without help. We saved her half of a baked potato and the bone from the pork chop as a treat for her, but she was eating without a lot of enthusiasm.

We crossed a moonlit Minnesota on the way back -- a "Bomber's Moon" is what I think they called it. We went to Worthington on 90 and then up 60 to Mankato. They need to call State Highway 60 the Ethanol Highway since there must have been half dozen to ten "Biorefineries" on that road. I'm not sure that I think that ethanol is a good idea and I really wonder about a country that is more interested in growing crops to feed their cars than to feed their people. Big Corn isn't any better then Big Oil since you can't have corn without oil, at least the way that modern farming is done and feeding cars corn doesn't solve the problem.

Sheila spent the next couple of days going out to go potty and going back to the bed upstairs or her bed in the living room, where ever the people were. Limping and sleepy, she still looked happy and like it was worth it for her. My joints are better and I know it was worth it for me...


MDM (me darlin' Mrs) and I went to her folks' house for Thanksgiving and this is something I typically dread. MDM's mom isn't a good cook, she doesn't really enjoy preparing the meal and it shows. The most frustrating thing about this situation is the fact that Mrs Yam and I love cooking and entertaining. We volunteer to host or cook, but to no avail -- her lot is to have Thanksgiving and, like Sisyphus, she's going to do it every year. Grocery store turkey, boxed mashed potatoes, dressing made in a crock pot from a box, anything to ease the tedium of cooking.

[A little history of Brother Yam here; before my current career, I was a cook and a bartender for about a dozen years so I know my way around a kitchen. I love cooking and eating which puts us back to the present and the reason for the name of this pathetic little narrative called a blog...]

I don't care that she doesn't like cooking -- hell, most people don't -- and so I understand the reason for the ingredients. But that's the frustrating thing, I absolutely loathe convenience foods. Processed foods are the windmill I tilt against and I am glad to see the re-awakening of the real food, or slow food movements. Tasteless food is an oxymoron, and I'm thankful I don't eat it often.

The turkey that comes from the store -- 89 cents a pound or so -- is a loss leader for the supermarket. That's to get you to come in and buy the rest of the crud that they sell, the boxed mashed potatoes, the bagged stuffing, canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes in syrup. That turkey isn't a product of farming, not anymore. That turkey is a genetically-engineered product of agricultural manufacturing. The exact amount of feed at the exact time mixed with enough antibiotics and vitamins to keep it on schedule and to prevent the loss of too much inventory due to the environment in which it is created. The product reaches a deliverable mass and then is trucked off for processing.

There's nothing sentimental in the raising and slaughter of that store turkey. This is assembly line production and the goal is to get you a semblance of what you are looking for in the shortest amount of time and at the lowest cost (financially). Processed and packed and shipped to a consumer that is so conditioned that a turkey is breast meat with enough structure around it to hold it upright so that it can get food down its gullet. A "basted" or "butterball" turkey that has been injected full of water and oil and salt. You're probably paying for ten percent water on that turkey, you can see by how much "broth" is left over in the pan after roasting it.

Mrs Yam and I don't eat that way because we love animals both on the hoof and in the pan. A turkey was once a wily target but is now reduced to gibbering idiot status in overcrowded, filthy and disease-ridden houses. This is no way for something to live, at least something that will end up on a table. Remember, you are what you eat and what you eat is what it eats too, so if you are eating something that lives in shit...

Factory farming has taken the variety and flavor and delicacy out of our food and gives us nothing in return but ease of acquisition. They get machine-harvestable and uniform sizes for picking and shipping and control over the genetics. I suppose that's a bit unfair as we get fresh vegetables all year round, but they're so tasteless, I'd prefer to eat the frozen stuff that was harvested fresh and then preserved or just go without. We're seasonal eaters here in the Yam household because I'd rather eat corn on the cob fresh for three months it's local than try to choke down some frozen cobs in March. Eat it when it's the freshest and the cheapest.

So we have traded taste and nutrition for convenience, and it's not a fair trade. There was nothing fresh on the table save what Mrs Yam and I brought: Brussel Sprouts cooked in sage butter and baked squash and parsnips with maple syrup. Nobody at the table had had sprouts before, but I was happy to see that they enjoyed them. The squash was pretty much finished also (mostly by the Mrs and me). The pies were good and the company was good. I don't want anyone to think I don't care for my inlaws, I do. I love them dearly -- that's why I want to cook for them. That's how I show my love, I feed you. I toast to your health with the best I've got.

And I toast to you all. Despite the rant, I'm thankful for my family and the food and everything. And that next year, we will be hosting again and the menu will be rich and weird and really, really healthy.

I expect that I'll be writing more about food in the coming months as I'm inside more and cooking more. And hey, winter biking takes energy, no?

[This was rolling around in my head for a while and it is now complete. Sorry for the late post]

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pappataci Mustapha

The lovely Mrs Yam and I went and saw Rossinni's An Italian Girl in Algiers last night. What a treat! The ensemble as a whole performed magnificently and the tenor that had Lindoro's role was stunning. After his first aria, the crowd showed quite a bit of appreciation and even a "Bravo" was shouted. Quite the unruly crowd last night. The cast cast responded to the audience and looked like they were having fun on stage. The were "on" last night and we could tell -- quite the feedback loop.

I'm not really all that knowledgeable about opera, but I go anyway. I try to read the libretto before hand, but I should probably listen to it before I go to get more out of it. If you are in Twin Cities and need something to do this weekend, there is a show Saturday at 7:30 PM and a Sunday matinee at 2:00 PM. Go. You won't be disappointed. This is a great opera for people who've never gone to one; it's funny (trust me, you'll get the jokes), the music is easy to listen to, the performers are top-notch and, for the newbie, it's short (less than 3 hours).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Banner day...

I managed to make both of the lights down Penn, 66th and that son of a bitch light on 69th on my way to work today. I always get caught on the son of bitch light on 69th. Always. It's like Lucy with Charlie Brown's football between me and that son of a bitch light on 69th.

I made it today.

It's gonna be a good day.

I don't care about the wind.

I don't care about the cold.

I rode my bike and I made it past the son of a bitch light on 69th!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Unfortunately, that's not the Mrs. and me, but Momma Yam. Dropped her off at the airport early this morning so that she can tour China. Adventurous ol' gal, me momma. Tough as nails too. Worked as an Emergency Room Nurse at North Memorial and then retired. Got bored. Worked at the Bloomington-Lake clinic (on Bloomington and Lake -- not the best of neighborhoods) and then they transferred her to the safer confines of the Southern suburbs.

I've seen my mom put a room full of gangbangers in fear of their lives -- that's her ER and don't you forget about it. Your buddy will be taken care of, but if she has to come out here one more time and tell you people... If you have pieces in the wrong places, pieces in pieces or whatever, I'd want no one less than Momma Yam next to me. If you cross her while she's stichin' you back up, that little (5' 2") old lady is nothing but teeth and claws.

China should be okay -- if they don't mess with her too much.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sad news

Few among the few who read this blog will know what this means (hey, and if you do, represent!), but Itojun (Jun-ichiro Hagino) of IPv6 fame has passed away.

A bad day for the internets...

Feed... a book by M. T. Anderson, and a damn fine one. It's possibly one of the saddest commentaries on our society I've ever read. I heard of it from Ran Prieur, who was brought to my attention by Kent Peterson.

The story is basically a dystopian vision of the future, where a completely commercialized Internet is beamed into implanted devices wired into the wearer for a continuous stream of advertising, chat and pop culture. Dulling the populace into a compliant, dull mass of consumers, the feed lures people from seeing the reality that is happening around them. You want a scary book for this Halloween? Read this, and if you have any ability to connect dots you'll be properly terrified.

Ostensibly a book for "young adults," this isn't to be missed because I found it in the Teen section of my used book store. The ideas are very, very grown up. Maybe too grown up for most of us. This was a gripping book that kept me up until I finished it, so the easy read is just a sugar coating that helps get the message into the system.

Not a really cheerful book, but that's just what the doctor ordered. I'm back to the black mood I was in before my "vacation." Seems the nice feeling I tried to bottle sank into the muck of reality and I'm frantically pawing through the mire to find it. One thing that didn't help was listening to my laptop take a header off of my desk here at work. I just hope I can get it repaired -- First Tech won't get around to looking at until Friday or Monday.

Sure it's a 5 year old laptop, but my Powerbook has been working like a champ and still does all I need it to do. I don't want another one, I've heard bad things about the new ones and I'm not ready to give up on this one. That and I can't afford another new thing; I was lucky to get the bike and now we're just about to start remodeling the bathroom. Though not as fun as a new laptop, a toilet isn't something I'm willing to go without...

Didn't bike to work this morning as I haven't been able to figure out how to carry a full crockpot of soup. We're having a pot-luck here at the office and I brought a curried squash and apple soup. I may just drive home and bike to da bar tonight if the weather holds. It's been perfect for biking, so I'm doing my best to take advantage of it. Biking does help beat the blues.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Glorious weekend

Mrs Yam and I finally found our way out of town. We took last Friday off and left for Two Harbors Thursday night. We stayed in the lighthouse! I didn't even know that was a B&B, and it was a great find. As we left the Cities, the 35W bridge traffic was snarled (big surprise, that), and I felt tense. I hadn't been able to leave for a vacation and it was beginning to show. I feared that something would stop us from this getaway. Happily, nothing did and I could feel the tension streaming away as we headed North.

We made fairly good time (the Mrs is a real leadfoot) and checked into the Lighthouse around 7:30. Dinner in town and a night of reading. I'm on a serious Terry Pratchett kick right now and I wanted to finish The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. A kids book. Yeah, right. A story like the old Grimm Fairy Tales, with the death and violence included. But, like everything I've read of his, utterly entertaining.

Friday morning we headed up to a couple of State Parks we hadn't hiked yet, Split Rock Lighthouse and George H. Crosby/Manitou. Split Rock's Hiking Club trail is fairly long, but it is relatively flat since it lies between the lake and the highway and almost half of it is on the Gitchee Gummee paved trail. Easy six miles.

Crosby, not so much. We missed the turn for highway 1 and had to backtrack since the stupid navigator was staring at his belly button lint or something. Eventually we found it. This is a State Park junkie's treat, this one. You have to take a couple of miles of dirt road to get it and when you get there, it's really rustic. Nothing's paved, there's no giftshop or ice or anything. A board that you shove your campsite reservation slip into and that's about it. The hike was really challenging for us, with plenty of roots and rocks and lots and lots of elevation changes. I'll need to look at what I get out of the GPS to see it exactly, but there was plenty of climbing. Tough, but fair. It was easily the most technical hike we've ever encountered and we are proud of ourselves that we completed it and in pretty good time. We're not experienced, but compared to our outing to Eagle Mountain several years ago, we've improved considerably.

Then to Grand Marais for the room. Ah, me lovely Mrs is a bright lady and got a room with a hot tub, just what this fat ol' boy needed after dragging his corpulent carcass up and down the hills of Lake Superior. Dinner and beers at the Gunflint Tavern and some well-deserved shut-eye. After 10 miles hiking and some Furious (Surly on the North Shore!), sleep came quickly.

Saturday, we headed backwards a bit to Cascade River to hike another challenging trail. This one sends you up Lookout Mountain and back. There seemed to have been quite a windstorm in the recent past -- trees were down all over and we must have hiked around a dozen or so that ended up blocking the trail. That made things even more interesting.

After that, we went to Judge C. R. Magney for our aerobic workout. More climbing with a bunch of stairs near the end. It's a short 1.25 mile there-and-back, but the elevation changes make it fun and the scenery is magnificent. Not that the rest of the parks are shabby...

We finished by going all the way to the Canadian border and walking the Grand Portage trail. This is a paved 1/2 miles that brings you to the Pigeon River falls, the highest in Minnesota. They've had a bunch of rain, and the falls were really glorious. This pushed our hiking total to 101 miles and for that we get patches and a free night of camping. We headed back to Grand Marais, soaked in the hot tub, had dinner and drinks at the Gunflint and went to bed. They had a costume contest and a band that sounded like Brave Combo, great mole and did I mention that the have Surly?

The weather was perfect, the trails were perfect, the company was perfect (Hi, Hon!) and the stresses of the past few weeks couldn't stand up to the blast of happiness, beauty, exhaustion and gluttony that the weekend provided. It was like my spirit was steam-cleaned and I am happy and calm like I haven't been for long, long time. I hope I can save a small kernel of this, block it off from the ghoulies and the ghosties and ugliness and look at once in while when I need a pick me up. I really cherish the time I spend up there and I hope I can remember the feeling of standing barefoot in the lake this morning.

Time for bed. The week begins anew...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Overheard last night at the liquor store

I was stocking shelves when I heard two young women discussing their plans for a party. Here's a couple of nuggets of wisdom from the mouths of babes:

  • " don't want to mix to many different kinds of booze in it, you'll have people puking all over the backyard..."
  • "...we don't need to spend money on good vodka..."
  • "...well, that's sorta the essence of wopness..."
The essence of wopness?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's a perfect day

for walking in the park...

Sunday was a good day and I needed one. Work hasn't been going well for either Mrs. Yam or myself. Luckily, I'm still employed, but let's just say the Mortgage Industry woes have started to flow upstream and leave it at that, shall we?

Sunday, yes, yes. The Muttbutt, Mrs and I got up and went to breakfast then road-tripped south to Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park for a six mile hike. We all really needed it, especially Sheila. Poor thing has been cooped up while the Yamstress and I have been working many crazy hours. The fresh air, the exercise, the quiet -- quite a tonic.

The overcast skies of October are a favorite of ours and the trees at the park just glowed in the subdued light. There is something about about the leaves this time of year where they shine in their own subtle way. Clear skies and sun completely drown out the amber and rust lighting and that's why we like the grey skies.

The air was redolent with the sweet, moist smell of freshly fallen leaves and wet earth. There were no sounds save a gentle rustle of leaves and the cool, damp air was quite a change from the stale atmosphere of the office. I truly believe that Minnesotans are an Autumn People. Just ask one, the answer to "What's your favorite season?" is typically, "Fall." I know that's my answer...

We watched a leaf fall for what seemed like hours, long lazy arcs back and forth as it slowly settled downward only to catch a breeze and lift gently upwards again. This absolutely captivating display repeated three or four times until the breeze wandered off to play with something else.

Walking in woods, gold above and the vibrant green of the still flourishing undergrowth, was almost magical, surreal. I felt like I would stumble across a mythical sylvan creature around any turn on the trail. We'd finally found a little peace.

After the walk, we decided to wander eastward to Mississippi, so we found ourselves heading towards Wabasha on Highway 60. I really recommend this road to anyone, the valleys and streams cut into the land make for some magnificent scenery. We crossed over to Wisconsin and headed up 35 to Hudson. It was around Lake Pepin when a misty drizzle settled over the area and turning it into something from Scotland, more like Loch Pepin...

We tried to find Rush River Brewing Co. while passing through River Falls, but the light was failing and the maps and townspeople were as mystified as we about the actual location. Disheartened, we made Hudson, bought some Dogfish Head beer from a helpful fellow in a liquor store downtown and ate a little dinner and headed home.

The day ended pleasantly enough for most, save Sheila and me. I had to wash the mud out of the dog and neither of us enjoy that too much, but, so it goes. We all then headed up to an early bed. The perfect ending to a perfect day.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Mrs. vs. the Hummer

(C'mon, clean it up, guys... I mean the SUV/Land Yacht)

So Autumn has fallen up on Minnesota with a vengeance. Sunday was 85 and humid and Monday was rainy and about 55-60 degrees. Yesterday was windy, windy, windy with 30mph northerly gusts and I don't think it cleared 50 degrees. Nice weather for bikin'.

Mrs. Yam described biking home -- into the cold North wind with dust and grit flying and falling temps. She stops at a light along Nicollet and Hummer pulls along side. She imagined them looking down on her, this crazy old lady biking in this weather. I said that the driver is both stupid and weak -- unable to brave the elements in their giant, climate-controlled gas-guzzler and don't you concern yourself with them.

Rock on, baby. Rock on...

That's me Mrs.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

And then there were six

The Raleigh has found a new home and a new rider. My next door neighbor is about 17 and she doesn't have any mode of transportation. Not a good situation. So I gave her the three-speed and a lock and key that I found at the liquor store and told her to use them in good health. I hope she uses it, but she needs to ride as she found a 30 block bike ride to school a formidable distance.

All in good time I suppose.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

I'm officially an old man now...

I drank a PBR and ate chicken gizzards and livers.

I hate being on call...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Happy anibersary, Hon...

To my Darlin' Mrs Yam,

Eight years of bliss are more than I deserve.

I'm a lucky guy to have you around.

Here's to the miles, may there be many, many more.

Here's to the shows, the giggles and the crowded stove.

Here's to you and me and the wonderful way I am around you.

You make me a better person.

I love you.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Natural state for me. Hard to be a cheerful curmudgeon. Actually, I'm not a curmudgeon, but I'm working my way up the curmudgeon ladder -- I've leapfrogged Ornery Cuss and Grump and now I'm at Crabby Old Man. Don't even know why, though I'm pretty sure it isn't the change of seasons. I like fall.

Haven't been riding much -- that's probably part of it. Without the exercise I feel fat. I've never felt fat before. I've always been fat, but I never really felt that way before. Sorta how a fish doesn't really feel water.

The tubes on the Bleriot have slow leaks on them. I've little experience with Presta valves, so I don't know if it's something that just needs adjusting, or this is their normal state, or they've both been blessed with leaks. I'll get up in the morning, see the tires are low and say "screw it" and not bother riding. I'm grumpy and this doesn't help.

The cool nights have all the critters vying for bed space and Mrs Yam gathering as much comforter and she can hold and everybody doing their level best to sleep on top of me, the warmest thing there. This makes for cramped sleeping should I even manage to succeed. So, not only grumpy, but tired -- not something that stokes the fires of riding desire either.

We're getting ready to remodel the bathroom (we've really only one) and our original plans were to take our vacation while this was happening since living at home without it would be less than pleasant, but things have gone all pear-shaped at Mrs. Yam's office and leaving on vacation during these trying times isn't looking good. So, no hope of a vacation dampens my spirits.

Well, there's always the Autumn Brew Review. But there are no tickets to be had. I especially took that day off from the liquor store to go, but I waited too long to get a ticket. Strike 4.

So, instead of "sampling" craft beer, I'll pump up the tires and accompany the Mrs. to The Cedar Cultural Centre and then ride around the city. But, it'll probably end up raining and I'll be stuck at home with a nervous dog and a couple of bitchy cats.

I guess I could always go into the office...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My first bleg

Does anyone have a spare ticket to the Autumn Brew Review?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Evil Genius

So, Pinchy is dissin' Triathalon bikes, recumbants and folding bikes all in one post. Normally, I don't knock anyone for riding, but the picture Pinchy puts up is sorta disturbing and I have to fire back.

In the comments, I mention my evil genius and now I get to prove it with my Mad Photoshop Skillz (Gimp Skillz, whatevah). Behold, the bike that makes the baby Pinchy cry:

The folding triathalon recumbant! Or the triathlete's recumbant folding bike! Or a folding recumbant tri-bike...

Click image for my evil genius as actual size. Bwahahaha...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

And Castaway makes... 7?

Egads, Mrs. Yam counted the bikes in the garage and claimed there were seven. Seven? That's nuts, who'd have seven bikes? There's only two of us, we can't have seven, can we?
  1. Bianchi Backstreet (1990?) - bent frame. It was on my roof rack when garaged it a decade ago and haven't been able to figure out what to do with it. The down tube is bent just past the head tube lug and I don't know if it can be repaired or, if it can, is it worth it?
  2. Gitane Grand Sport Deluxe (197?) - my buddy was throwing it out and I took it. I'm not sure why after looking into what it would take to turn it into something usable. Perhaps I could use it as one of Matt's gravity traps...
  3. Raleigh Sport (1988?) - Castaway found and cleaned up. Runs great
  4. Rivendell Bike Works Bleriot (2007) - my "good" bike
  5. Specialized Crossroads (1999) - Mrs Yam's commuter and general all-rounder
  6. Specialized Expedition Elite (1999) - my "junk" bike. I have to rebuild the wheel
  7. Specialized Sirrus (1995?)- Mrs Yam's other bike, resurrected from the basement this year so that I could ride while the Expo's wheel was getting rebuilt. Thanks to Jamie for the hint on how to clean up the shifter/brake lever (I refuse to use the term brifter).
Yup, seems like seven to me. Two currently out of service, one forever, one when I decided I need to learn how to build a wheel (which better be soon, I don't really want to ride the Bleriot in the snow).

Is this healthy? Does it become an obsession after 2? 5? 12?

Monday, September 10, 2007

New addition to the stable

On Saturday, my darlin' bride and I were heading through the neighborhood on our way somewhere when we came across a women's Raleigh 3 Speed Sport leaning up against a tree with a "FREE" sign on it. Mrs Yam, the loving and knowledgeable lady that she is, asks if we should stop.

Of course we should stop.

I'm glad we did. It looks to be a fairly recent Taiwanese model, with a Sturmey-Archer 3 speed and coaster brake. It also has a vinyl seat and large, rectangular reflector on the back fender. I'm researching a more exact age, but I'm guessing it's early 80's. It is in pretty good condition, too. It was just covered in dust, handle bars a bit askew and the tires needed some air. Last night I pumped her up, straightened out the bars and took her for a test ride. I forgot what a giggle it was to ride something like this. It's small and I'm not sure if raising the seat will be enough, but what a ride. This thing feels like a Cadillac -- smooth and heavy. The shifter needs some work -- it doesn't seem to be changing gears -- so this should be an interesting challenge as I've never adjusted a 3 speed before.

I've managed to take some pictures of the Bleriot and I'll post them and some pics of the Castaway in case can help me get a more accurate age on it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bikin' to da bar -- Good Day Sunshine edition

Goodness me, what a beautiful day.

Biked to work and as passing over Crosstown and looking at the stopped traffic, all I could think was, "You're driving to work and I'm riding my bike on a beautiful morning. " Had a great day at work, if looking over Microsoft patches determining what is essential and creating a report is your idea of a good day. Typically finding Mickeysoft weaknesses is not what makes my day, but getting things done is getting things done.

Biked to da bar after -- gotta rinse the brain after a day of big sadness -- and I went the long way up a couple of hills just to get the blood pumpin'. Town Hall's newest is called WPA and it is a really interesting combination of wheat and hops, try it soon. Chatted with friends and had a bunch of people say that the Bleriot was a really good looking bike. Why, thank you all, so do I. Kudos, Jim.

Biking back in the twilight (or was it the gloaming, I can never tell) brought a bunch of nice Twin City biking experiences in one night on the Greenway:
  • a fellow in the other lane said I need a light (it was on the other bike, sorry, dude)
  • two people were moving from Mac-Groveland to somewhere on Blaisdell by bike. They were pulling bike trailers carrying boxes in one and a couch in another. Nice to see.
  • I passed a guy and we chatted on how nice the night was. Think about that the next time you shoot by someone in your car...
  • saw a woman who didn't need a headlight -- she was grinning so wide her perfect teeth just lit up the path around her. It was that kind of a night.
  • had a Minnesota argument on the path around Calhoun: two people were walking their dog in the bike lane, I mention that I'm coming up on them (slowly) and that they are in the bike lane and I'd hate to see them get hit. They thank me and say that they'd hate to see me fall off my bike. I wish all heated discussions were so friendly...
  • the path between Calhoun and Harriet need more lights
  • the Yamster has to put his front light on because the path from Harriet to home is really badly lit and my memory of the path doesn't help in the dark

Of course my batteries died in my camera, so I can't share the beauty of the night so you'll just have to use yer imagination...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Peddling his ass or giving it away?

Sorry, but I have to climb on the Larry Craig bandwagon (oh, did I really say that? Ew, sorry again...)

I have a question. What are the police doing in the airport bathrooms looking for cruisers? I mean, come on, that's so 1950 and we're supposed to be a gay-friendly city. Don't we have better things to do with our Homeland Security budget? Aren't there bicyclists to beat up? (Gotta keep the blog on topic, dontchaknow)

I don't care if he's gay, that isn't a sin as far as I'm concerned, but if he's trolling for bathroom sex and voting for "Family Values" anti-gay legislation then you are a hypocritical piece of shit, sorry. You deserve to have your trysts trotted out in front of everyone through the media. I love the smell of Schadenfreude in the morning.

What is it with closeted, gay Republicans? Is the illicitness of the act such a turn on? Are you guys really getting your jollies like this? I'm fat and not happy about it, but I can accept it and I'm dealing with it. Why can't you? Why do you cultivate votes form that intolerant swamp of voters?

Speaking of intolerant, here's the Idaho Values Alliance saying what a wonderful guy Larry Craig is for his vote against Stem Cell Research, or, in their words, "S. 5, which would have forced taxpayers to fund life-destroying resource on human embryos." But that's not what's so interesting; here's what is truly amazing -- look at the first of the "Bonus Bytes":
One of the tragic characteristics of the homosexual lifestyle is its emphasis on anonymous sex and multiple sexual partners. It is a little-acknowledged secret that many active homosexuals will have more than 1,000 sex partners over the course of a lifetime (the average among heterosexuals is seven – still six more than we were designed for). This sordid fact of homosexual life surfaced yesterday in an AP article yesterday that reports on the number of arrests police have made for indecent exposure and public sex acts in the restrooms at Atlanta’s airport, the busiest in the world. The increased restroom patrols, begun to apprehend luggage thieves, instead uncovered a rash of sex crimes. Airport restrooms have become so popular that men looking for anonymous sexual trysts with other men have advertised their airport availability on Craigslist. One such ad was from a man saying he was stuck at the airport for three hours and was looking for “discreet, quick action.” (AP: Arrests Up in Atlanta Airport Restrooms)


So, he's cheating on his wife and now people are screaming for him to retire. What about Vitter? He cheated on his wife with a whore, yet there's no cry for his head? What, you just apologize and then it's over? Or is there something a little deeper running here?

Update: looks like the good people of the IVA have decided to pull the plug on ol' Larry. Talk about fair weather friends.

Monday, August 27, 2007

August is winding down and autumn is on its way.....

...and I can't bloody wait. The trees, flowers and grasses around here look tired. The intense, bright green of new life in May, the deep healthy green of summer have now faded into an almost gray. The heat of summer and lack of rain has really taken their toll. Even the summer hasn't it's usual bite, or, as the Mrs said, "Even the hot is tired." Cycledog has the blues 'cuz he's suffering through an Okie August. Can't say that I blame him as this month has really been hard for me because I don't like humidity at all and my tolerance for heat has long been saturated. I'm grumpy and I want Summer to end and Mrs. Yam is worse than I am.

One of the sayings here is, "If you don't like the weather, wait an hour." Well the weather has been utterly bipolar in its mood swings as of late -- for the first two weeks it was like living in Bankok, then, as the temperatures dropped (thankfully), we moved across the Pacific to Seattle/Tacoma with rain, thunderstorms, showers, sprinkles, precipitation and drizzle. From no rain to floods. Mrs Yam and I were going to head to Southeastern Minnesota to do some hiking and camping in the State Parks, but the rain has caused a lot of flooding. The Northeastern part of the state is in a drought and Parks there don't allow campfires, so that's out (what fun is camping without a fire?).

We decided to go North to the Mille Lacs area and hike and camp Kathio, Father Hennepin, Savannah Portage, Crow Wing and Charles A. Lindberg State parks. We did Father Hennepin, Savannah Portage and Kathio on Saturday for a total of about twelve miles. On the way to Savannah Portage, we stumbled across a meadery in McGregor called Minnestalgia. These are the sort of things that make taking the back roads worthwhile. After 30 minutes of tasting and case of mead later, we continued on our trek.

Savannah Portage is the most Northern of the bunch and the trees were just beginning to change. A tree here and there was already in full autumn dress and others had branches with yellow or red. There was a different coolness in mornings, like the air knew it wasn't going to be stretched by the sun and the length of the day. I actually saw my breath Sunday morning. Apples and squash are replacing the radishes and peas. All point to a season that I await all year.

So, don't fret Cycledog, it's coming for you too. Hang in there.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Now we're talking

In yesterday's post, I mentioned looking for a recoilless rifle on a Big Dummy. It looks like, with a bit of ingenuity, we could possibly rig something like this up to an Xtracycle and we're in business.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Commuting necessities

  1. Hawaiian sling and spears with 12 "This driver is a DICK" streamers
  2. EMP generator
  3. Automatic paintball rifle/paintgrenade launcher
  4. Tire spikes
  5. Bike Snob NYC says we cyclists have Death Rays that shoot from our eyes -- I need to work on that...
  6. Others?

To do item: I need to get a Surly Big Dummy and mount a recoilless rifle on it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

One car?

Mrs Yam and I have tossed the idea of trimming down to one car. Why this would even be a radical idea is a story unto itself, but, even so, the thought tantalizes me. Doug in Duluth has been doing it for five years and he doesn't seem any worse for wear, and I am chapped that I spend $700 bucks to fix the brakes on one of our cars. I also need new tires on the other car. This is bullshit -- that money could have been spent on a super-excellent single speed winter commuter and clothes and enough left over to buy enough oatmeal to power the Yamster throughout the winter...

Continuing with the though process, do you sell both cars (both work fine) and get a different one? Keep one and sell the other? Drive 'em into the ground and not replace 'em? What to get? I am morally opposed to buying new cars unless you have the cash to pay for it up front because I'll be damned if I'm borrowing money and paying interest on something that loses value. Let someone else with the new car jones take the hit. I'd rather retire comfortably and drive used cars, thank you very much.

The Mrs and I do car camping, so something with a bit of space would be nice. Good gas mileage and reliability are essential. I'm thinking something like a little Mazda station wagon, but I don't have any really good ideas. I like the Honda Fit, but that's a bit small, methinks.

Anyone giving up a car? What are the pitfalls you've experienced? Any added benefits? I like the idea of the financial freedom -- no gas, maintenance or insurance costs -- that can be used for other things.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Creating congestion

Oh goody, more money is headed for "congestion relief" on our roadways. What does "congestion relief" consist of? Let us count the ways:
  1. More bus lanes downtown
  2. Turning Hennepin into a two-way street again
  3. "Priced dynamic shoulder lanes" - toll lanes on 35W from 46th to downtown
  4. Add a HOV lane/"priced dynamic shoulder lane" from 66th to 45th (both directions)
  5. Parking spaces for Park and Rides
  6. Shoulder expansion on Cedar for buses.

In creating parking spaces at park-and-rides, are they going to put in bike cages? Why do rich people get their own lanes? Are they going to spend any money on making the bus infrastructure better (better buses, better pay for drivers, more routes, etc.)?

What irks me the most about all of this is the HOV lane nonsense. Lemme see if I have this right; you are expanding the freeway through my neighborhood to add two more lanes to relieve congestion. Except when traffic is the heaviest you can't actually use the lane unless you pay or have a carpool. Minnesotans (and probably Exurbia in general) don't like to be with others (that's why they live in Exurbia) so I'll assume that no one will carpool because, if the HOV lanes on 394 are any indication, they aren't.

Adding lanes doesn't help traffic -- it just creates more traffic. Alternatives to driving are what is needed and nobody wants alternatives. I apologize to you southern suburbanites -- we're paving our neighborhoods as quickly as we can, but you keep buying bigger and bigger SUVs and we just can't keep up with the road building that you desperately need.

All I can hope is that the popularity of the light rail and it's greater than expected ridership may, just possibly, convince deepest, darkest suburbia to consider mass transit as a way to increase mobility without the continued creep, creep, creep of road building.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Me darlin' Mrs. has been working the Fringe Festival at a local venue. Problem is, she gets home late and I usually wait up. That makes getting up early enough to ride difficult (warning: lame-ass excuse), so we carpool. This morning was a beautiful 65 degrees, light wind, no cloud kind of morning and would have been perfect to ride. I'm going to pick her up for lunch and ride back -- in the 85-90 degree middle of the day.

I'm such an idiot.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Quick hits...

  • Mama Yam's last remaining sibling passed away this weekend. Much consoling and traveling to do. It's heartbreaking to hear your mother say, "I'm the last one..."

  • Haven't been riding much, the new saddle and I are still getting to know one another, though when I drive to work, I carpool with the Mrs. Still doing what I can to keep Greenhouse Gas levels down. I don't know if it matters though according to this.

  • Saw Spamalot last weekend. I'm not a Musical guy, I prefer opera. But it was funny and the songs were sung just a bit too dramatically and the music is a just over the top enough to poke the entire Musical genre in the ribs. Much better than the last one I went to -- the horribly cliché Wicked. I suppose if you like Disney movie music it could be your thing. It's certainly not mine.

  • So the President is promising money and help for the 35W river bridge. Here's the rule when dealing with Dubya: don't listen to what he says, watch what he does. And remember New Orleans. Oh, we'll get help -- we're lily white Minnesota and the Republicans are having their convention here next year. Wouldn't want to have that come up during their love-fest, now would we?

  • I'll post pictures of the Bleriot when I find all the parts of the camera. I have a digital camera, but I don't like it very much, so I don't use it all that often. When I do, Mrs Yam gives me the stink-eye for holding up whatever we're doing to take pictures. I do like the idea of carrying one around while commuting and getting shots of the interesting things you see on the way. Until then, sate yourself with this. Mine has fenders and is without the beautiful baggage or one of those spiffy HC water bottles...

  • Weighed in last night at Weight Watchers -- I'm now down over 25 pounds since I've started. I've also stopped having the indigestion and other related gastrointestinal difficulties since switching my eating habits.

  • I may have joined Weight Watchers, but I haven't given up beer. We've just gotten this into the liquor store where I work. I highly recommend trying some if you find it.

  • Go to a farmer's market and get some sweet corn NOW! It's in season and you should eat it while it's fresh. To grill corn:
    1. start the grill
    2. when the grill is hot, throw the corn on, husks and all
    3. turn the cobs when the husks scorch a bit
    4. when you smell roasted corn, pull 'em off the grill and let 'em sit a couple of minutes
    5. shuck and enjoy.
    I like mine with fresh lime and chili powder.

See ya after the funeral...

Friday, August 03, 2007

The empress arrives...

Oh goody, the First Lady is here to view the carnage through Paxil-and-Skyy-colored glasses. How helpful.

Update: Swell, Commander Cuckoo Bananas is coming here tomorrow. Since this place shuts down when his highness deigns to visit us with his security detail and all. Fly in, stand on some rubble, get a picture taken and look like you give a shit and then probably have a fund-raiser for soon-to-be ex-Senator Coleman, and then fly off leaving a snarled traffic mess and the tab for us, your grateful Great Northern subjects.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Biking to da bar - disaster edition

It's hot. I biked to Town Hall as I usually do on Odin's Dag, but today held a special event.

I was present for the collapse of the 35W bridge over the Mississippi river here in Minneapolis. I didn't see the actual structural failure, but I did see the bridge in the river minutes after it happened.

It is weird. It takes a couple of seconds to process that something that cataclysmic has happened. I saw the bridge, but I didn't conceive of just what had occurred. Probably a product of growing up with TV and looking at disasters that happened far away.

"Things like that never happen here."

Wise up, fat boy. Apparently, they do.

It's odd looking on death and destruction of such enormous scale. You are accustomed to small disasters, car crashes, building fires and such, but not the destruction of something that has stood your entire life. Something that doesn't even really register. It's always been there, you use it daily and never give it a second thought unless traffic is slow across it (which happens). It's part of life, the little thing you never sweat.

Until it disappears.

Then what? You look upon the destruction with disbelief, a detachment. Then, the connections. Holy shit, Mrs Yam has dance class in Nordeast tonight! She's on her way!

For the first time in my life, I felt a white flash of panic. The opposite of a gnawing feeling, but an attack like an ambush from a cougar. It was but a brief flash, but I know I never want to feel it again. I call her phone, no answer (nothing unusual) and leave a message.

After realizing that my wife could have been on that bridge, my phone rings -- but it's not me Mrs, it's my brother calls asking how we are. He's the family worrier -- he is last person that I needed to talk to right now. I tell him that I'm looking at the scene, that I'm on the bridge next to the one that collapsed and that I haven't heard from me Mrs. yet. He says that he'll get off the phone and pray for us.

Now, things start to sink in. I clear my head with facts: we know that traffic sucks on 35W, we've discussed alternative routes earlier today, there are limited lanes of traffic and that the odds of Mrs Yam being on the bridge are actually pretty small.

This is comforting. A deep breath and some thought tell me that I haven't really anything to fear. She'll call as soon as she hears of what has happened.

The phone rings and I notice with joy that it is me Mrs. She called to let me know that she's fine. She was on the on the 3rd St bridge about the time the river bridge collapsed. Dance class was starting, so we can't chat but I don't care. I'm freaking floating. She's fine.

My other brother calls (he'd talked to the worrier) and wanted to make sure that we're OK. I assure him and decide then I needed a smoke and a beer. Since the 12 mile ride from work to da bar pretty much dehydrated me, I was sipping water. No longer.

I sat outside and watched the traffic snarl, the emergency vehicles push their way through the crowded streets and listened to people gossip about which roads were closed. Considering the confusion, the size of the catastrophe and the ability of the typical Minneapolis driver, things went really pretty well. I saw emergency teams from Anoka and Eagan, Stillwater and Edina, Richfield and Roseville. A collapse building team from Dakota county, diver squads from all over, boats from cities that don't have bodies of water -- it was truly astounding. Minneapolis' finest showed up and the cops that were directing traffic did a really tremendous job.

Traffic sucked as I sat there with the other regulars and gave directions to how to get the hell out of where you were. I'm really glad I had a bike.

I got a call from my sweetie offering me a ride (the weather looked pretty threatening), but I said that she should just get the hell home and I'll fend for myself. It's so freaking hot, that a ride in the rain would be great.

No rain, but the ride home was great anyway. Waved through by the completely exhausted cop that had been there for three hours, I worked my way to the Greenway to the Lakes and home. I flew as there was no one on the paths.

I was happy to walk the dog with me Mrs. tonight.

Very happy.

Governor Paulenty Pawlenty will have a lot to answer for tomorrow. He had the bright idea to not keep up the roads due to his "No New Taxes" plan, and I think that his Vice Presidental bid will probably suffer for it.

Good. I hope his political future is crushed by that bridge.


More later, but in the mean time read Rick Perlstein and his coverage of the infrastructure of this country.

We need more bikes.

Updated: Here's what the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) thinks of our infrastructure.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Well, dress me up purty and call me Annie

A newspaper said nice things about dedicated bicycle paths and the people who ride on them. Perhaps in a century or two, they'll start calling for reduced spending on freeways.

Nah, don't be stupid...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Someone photographed the fatboy without his bike:

Image courtesy of How to Avoid the Bummer Life

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Heat sucks...

...but Reed is at the Farmers' Market with heirloom tomatoes, so that makes it better. A little.

Also, Brewery Creek have their melons in a couple of weeks early. If you've never had a Brewery Creek heirloom melon, go get one. Now you'll probably get sticker shock because you are used to sad imitations at the grocery store, tasteless, hard critters for 39 cents a pound. If you like melons -- and you do, you just don't know it yet -- try one from them. Richly flavored, redolent (you can smell their stall from 40 feet) and in a variety that will leave you speechless.

It's hot and I hate hot. But melons and corn and tomatoes are in and this makes things a little better.

A little.

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Fat boy gets a new bike

The bottom bracket cassette on the Sirrus added an unwanted lateral movement. What is it with me and bikes? Am I so fat they turn to powder under me? Gah. Since the bottom bracket isn't all that difficult to fix and I happen to have the tool to open it up.

Of course it isn't as easy as the manual says because the cassette is seized in the BB and the splines are so shallow the tool won't stay in. After fighting with it Friday night and getting totally frustrated, I quit and had dinner with my in-laws. This morning, I decided to find a bolt that will hold the BB tool in place while I get a hernia trying to get the bloody thing loose. Two trips to the hardware store later and a fine thread 8mm bolt (don't get one that is too long...) is the trick. A grunt or two later and the cassette is free!

Mrs Yam asks what plans I have for the day and I suggest that I need to find a part to fix the bike and perhaps we can check out garage sales and see if I can score a serviceable used bike. Mrs Yam then blows me away with the statement that we could go through this with more used bikes and eventually have a garage full of broken bikes or we could just go look for a new one.


I was going to visit Jim and get a cassette, so we could start there. I ride a sweet Rivendell Bleriot. Oh my, so this is what a bike that fits feels like. We then go to Freewheel and see that they have a Trek 520 and a Surly Cross Check. I like the Cross Check, but I'm looking for a bike that I ride distances and this is really a great commuter (and cyclocross, but I don't do that) and we move on to the Hub Bike Co-op.

Criminey, they have complete Long Haul Truckers. This is what I'm looking for. Nice geometry, good feel and a nice set of components included in what is my price range. I finally find a custom built 52cm LHT and it fits great. Almost as good as the Bleriot.

They're really nice and they'll build a stock one that is still in the box and give me a call when it's done to test ride it.

I'm sure it's almost as nice as the Bleriot.


I decide to go back to HC and ride the Bleriot to see if it is really as nice as I thought it was. I mean, you don't buy a car on the day you start test driving 'em. That's stupid -- you have to consider, ponder, reflect. Drive the ones you like again. Reflect and then you start the purchase process. Don't let your emotions cloud your mind.

"I'll take it."

As Jim rings it up, I chat with a fellow that rides in on an Xtracycle and then we have to get it home. Mrs Yam says, "If you can't fit it in the backseat, I get to ride it home." Mrs Yam can't drive a stick. The bike doesn't fit in the Honda so the honor of the first ride goes to me darlin' bride.

I can't complain, I guess

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

All gone

Darn, the blackberries are gone. Mrs. Yam and I hiked Afton State Park last Sunday and stumbled across a patch of blackberries that must have 5 acres. As we climbed out of the ravine, I heard me darlin' bride make a little "eep" sound and then say "do you see 'em? Do you see 'em?"

Bloody blackberry bushes 8-10 ft (2-3m) tall, filled with ripe berries. Not that they're really berries, but drupelets. Anyway, since we were walking the dog, we had a couple of poop bags handy and we scrambled into the brambles and picked away. These were the real wild type, with rose-like thorns on the branches and thorns under the leaves besides. Well defended, to say the least.

Of course getting a handful of berries and stuffing them into your mouth was enough to convince us to brave the thicket and to climb in and harvest some. We put up with a sulky dog and spent a happy 45 minutes filling a bag with berries. I'm sure this is illegal, but we had no way to push back millions of years of evolution, and we couldn't help ourselves. A woman hiked by, commenting "They are delicious, aren't they?"

We just mumbled and drooled juice...

After schlepping the full bag back, we used them for our breakfasts for the following week. What a find.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Math error

In Tuesday's post, I calculated how many gallons of gas equivalent I have in excess fat. In rereading the entry, I saw this:
Human fat tissue contains about 87% lipids, so that 1 kg of body-fat tissue has roughly the caloric energy of 870 g of pure fat, or 7800 kcal.

and I realized that value for a 1kg of fat has been calculated for me, so my reducing the excess weight by 13% was in error. I should have used the original value times 7800 kcal/kg giving me an excess of 198,120 kcal.

198120 kcal * 4.184 kJ/kcal = 828,934 kJ or ~829 MJ

829 MJ / 131 MJ/gal = 6.3 gal of gas equivalent.

That amount would then get me between 180 - 250 miles. Still not very efficient considering that I could ride that in, say, 3 days.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How many gallons do you have around your waist?

Human fat tissue contains about 87% lipids, so that 1 kg of body-fat tissue has roughly the caloric energy of 870 g of pure fat, or 7800 kcal. In principle one has to create a 7800 kcal deficit or surplus between energy intake and use to lose or gain 1 kg of body-fat. (or 3500 kcal per pound). However, if one eats 7800 kcal more than the body needs, one won't necessarily gain 1 kg of fat, since muscle and other tissues may be built. The same way, if one eats 7800 kcal less than their maintenance level, they may not lose 1 kg of fat, since muscle and sugars may be metabolized to generate energy.[1]

Okay, so let's see, 56 pounds to lose to get to 200 pounds. That's 25.4 kg of fatty tissue or 22.1 kg of pure fat.

22.1 kg * 7800 kcal/kg = 172,364.4 kcal

172,364.4 kcal * 4.184 kJ/kcal = 721,172.65 kJ or 721 MJ.

There is approximately 131 MJ of gas in a gallon of gas[2] or

721 MJ / 131 MJ/gal = 5.5 gal of gas around my gut, or about 150-200 miles with the Honda. I can certainly bike farther than that on the fat I've got.

[1] Wikipedia entry on Calorie - Trivia note #3
[2] Wikipedia entry on Gasoline - Energy content

Good idea

Twibright Exciter

Time-Saving Exercise Bike for Computer Users
Replace Belly with a Six Pack without a Time Investment

Lots of people today spend large amount of time in front a computer without moving. That's bad for their bodies. But now, with Twibright Exciter, Internet surfing can have similar effect on your fat level and aerobic fitness as wave surfing. Exciter is an exercise bike designed to be ridden when using a computer. It can be connected to power a laptop, LCD monitor or a desk lamp and this way the user has a great motivation to continue the exercise.

Have Fun riding an Induction Generator with Your PC

We designed Exciter with SEIG, Self Excited Induction Generator. Ordinary 3-phase squirrel cage asynchronous motor and some capacitors create a difficult to understand generator circuit. When Exciter is pedaled above critical speed, positive electromagnetic feedback is established and powerful voltage oscillation appears. This manifests as three-phase sine wave on the motor output. This is rectified with 6 diodes so that all three windings can work together into a single load. Exciter then produces up to 120 watts of line voltage DC power, which can be used to power computer or laptop power supply, switch mode AC/DC adapters, fluorescent or incandescent light bulb.

Wow, just what I need. I just happen to have a broken bike (I garaged it while on my roof rack) and I could take this build this for this winter. I could generate enough power to run the Powerbook and get into riding shape at the same time!

I'd rather ride in the winter than now -- criminey, it must be 60% humidity with 73 degrees at 7:30 in the morning. Gonna prove to be a sticky, icky day, with a high above 90. And I gotta work at the liquor store tonight too. I rode slowly as to not work myself up too much, but that didn't work. In this weather you're going to sweat.

Bleah. This is my least favorite time of year. I'm not really heat tolerant and I hate humidity. Normally, I'm just a cool, collected guy, but weather like this just makes me that fat, sweaty guy I really am. Bleah.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Giggling little bastards...

A post of posts.  I have been unable to bring myself to write, yet I have much to say. Never happened to anyone else, I bet...

The party the title speaks of are raccoons that Mrs Yam and ran across a week ago while camping. We camped near Owatonna at Rice Lake State Park and our campground was a gorgeous cart-in on the lake. Friday night was cool with a breeze to keep the bugs away and a cloudless sunset. Dinner was cooked over an open fire and some beers were consumed. We retired to our tent and then the fun started; the raccoons raided our site. Chittering and giggling, they attempted to break into our food, but me Mrs is smarter than a raccoon and purchased locking tubs, so DENIED!

This of course didn't stop them from attempting it, but a couple of claps and a flashlight in the face sent them over to the next site where the pickings seemed more to their liking. Our poor neighbors never were able to shake the fearless vermin. The next night we decided to avoid tempting fate and put all comestibles that would interest them in the car, their poor campsite was ransacked a second night. I don't think that they slept much due to the noise.

Still riding the Sirrus. I haven't built the wheel for the Expedition as the funds have yet to appear. Mrs. Yam is forgiving, but if I have a bike to ride, then money for bikes doesn't have priority. She's right, but it doesn't make it any easier.

The weather has been absolutely lovely for mid-July here in the upper Midwest, so I've taken full advantage to biking to work. I'd tell you the mileage, but I've been unable to get the bike computer to talk to me in anything other than European. I put a new battery in it and I am able to program the wheel size, so I have an idea how I'm doing, but the thing only speaks metric. Oh well, c'est le guerre...

I was gonna bike to da bar, but the sky got sparky and riding on the Sirrus' skinny tires in the wet without fenders along with the lightning talked me out of attempting it. I wasn't too far from home when the heavens opened, so I managed to get home to change and take the car.

I'm a puss, I know. I'm dealing with it, so should you.

You know, I haven't the attention span to watch much TV or most movies, but I have no problem staring at a campfire for hours. I'm looking forward to my next foray into the wilderness.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Bikin' to da bar...

Rode to Town Hall after work facing a fairly stiff headwind while heading North, but when I turned onto the Greenway, the wind was (sorta) at my back and I merrily pedaled Eastward to Minnehaha. My buddy Bob was there and it looks like he's going to keep the Raleigh. Drat, I wanted a steel framed bike. So we drank beers and chatted and I offered to fix it up for him. The thing hasn't seen daylight in some fourteen years. Crashed it just before he bought his house, bent something (or so he thinks), moved in and put it in the basement. Now that the Park Board is finishing up the Grand Rounds, he's interested in biking again.

Oh yeah, drink the Town Hall's India Brown Ale, it's really, really yummy.

I really like the Greenway -- it's flat, it's fast, it's really pretty with all the gardens going in and, best of all, no cars. I would love it if we had more of them. Hell, let's just take a lane off of each of the freeways and make 'em bike lanes. Take another lane and make it expressly for buses. One or two lanes for cars, that sounds just about right.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What the...?

What is today, National Maim a Biker Day? Some fuck in a Sysco truck failed to stop as he was leaving the parking lot of Southdale and nearly flattened your humble narrator. I spread the love by showing him he was No. 1 in my book as I swerved to avoid him.


Diff'rent bike and dodging death

Well, as surprising as it may seem, the bike lost another spoke last week, and I haven't ridden since It seems I have to replace the wheel (again) because adding spokes doesn't do me any good. Why? Is the rim bent and it's taking out the spokes, one by one? Is the tension difference between the spokes so bad that they are breaking under the strain? Am I so fat I can't keep a wheel?

The only thing I can think of is to rebuild the wheel with a new rim and spokes and see what changes. Thing is, I've never built a wheel before, so this should be interesting. Since some of the biking blogs I've been reading have mentioned Hiawatha Cyclery, I decided to check them out and see what they have. I spoke to Jim about a new wheel and he seems to think that I can rebuild the wheel. I'll stop by and pick up a rim and spokes and a dishing tool sometime this week or next.

I also got to ride a Pugsley! What a cool bike! Thumping around on those monster truck tireswas an absolute gas. And that bike was smooove. They outfitted it with a Brooks saddle and some Nitto cruiser-like bars and had the frame painted powder-coated orange. I guess they didn't like the standard Surly decals and color. Whatever.

So, how is Yam getting to work? Is he stumbling back into cager-dom? No! With the bike without a wheel, I was getting antsy to ride, so I resurrected Mrs. Yam's Specialized Sirrus from it's basement exile and decided to bring back into road-worthy shape.

First was to wash the cobwebs from it. Ew. Then, adjust the derailleurs. Shimano RSX with the integrated brake and shifter. I've never seen 'em before, but what the hell, I'll take a shot at it. Once I figured out how they work, I realized that the rear shifter wasn't bringing the chain down to the smaller cogs. Crap, if the shifter is busted, I'd have to replace it and I wasn't really in the mood to take it all apart. Then, a little birdie by the name of Jamie told me of a trick: spray some Tri-Flow inside until it starts coming out the bottom. "Sometimes it works..."

This was sometimes. It shifts fine now and the brakes are okay. I got it done Monday while I was suffering from a combination of allergies and the reaction to the allergy medicine; sure, it dries out your nose, but it dries out everything else too. It's still filthy, but it runs and is it fast. Geeze, it's been a while since I've been on a road bike, and I've forgotten how fast these things are. But, with the aluminum frame and skinny tires, you feel every little bump in your teeth.

I rode the Sirrus to work today. It's fine, but I'm not used to riding without my rear view mirror, so I need to get into the habit of looking over my shoulder more, so I don't get creamed. Speaking of creamed, I was almost fit for soup today as I was taking a left into the parking lot at work. A bus slowed to let me turn, but some jerk was driving too fast (speed limit: 30mph) and passed the bus on the right and almost took out my back wheel.

Who needs coffee when adrenaline is so much effective at waking you up...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Got out of the house late yesterday so I had to drive. Went home for lunch and rode back since I was feeling guilty. That felt good -- sorta. It's getting hot and sticky, so the Minnesota summer cycle seems to be gearing up. Nice day, nice day, get a bit hot and sticky, even hotter and stickier, yet some more hot and sticky, thunderstorm. Repeat until September.

This morning's ride was nasty. It was already close to 80 (27C) when I left this morning and I had to ride against a mean South-westerly wind that just keep me hot -- no cooling breezes today. But the Weather Service says that there is a 30% chance of storms and tomorrow will be considerably cooler and drier. Nice weather to bike to da bar...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Something Drastic

After Tuesday's wipeout, I finally had a chance to survey the damage to the bike. Not much damage -- brake lever out of place, scuffs on the paint job in various places and, surprise, a broken rear spoke. I have broken 4 spokes in two weeks and it's finally come to the point where I need to something. Something drastic.

(About now, this is where Mrs. Yam starts to shake her head; she knows full well what's coming up -- her husband is going to fly off on some expensive tangent and the budget will be shot to hell.)

"If I'm going to spend all that time breaking spokes, I should just bloody get a truing stand and put 'em in myself," I snort. "This is getting expensive and I can do this, I shouldn't have to keep running to the bike shop for this."

Mrs Yam patiently nods.

"Let's go to REI and get a truing stand and I'll fix this myself"

Sigh, says Mrs. Yam.

$240 dollars later (well, we've started camping and we needed some stuff), I have a stand. So, while the coals for dinner were getting started, I put in the new spoke and trued the wheel. That felt good. I'm getting all ambitious and now pondering the chance of building a new rear wheel. I'll have to get Mrs. Yam's road bike working before I go there. I don't need any more disapproving glances from me darlin' bride for a while. And then there's the Gitane that needs to be rebuilt (or at least fixed up) and then I need to get my buddy's Raleigh from his house and turn that into a one-speed...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Biking to da bar redux

Biffed it last night.

Rode from work to Town Hall and on the way, I got a call from my buddy at the liquor store saying that there will be a Belgian beer tasting at the Bryant Lake Bowl and I should attend. Well, who am I to turn down good beer? With a buzz that comes from a coupl'a two-tree beers (the 1800 is on -- try some, it rocks), I hit the curb along Hiawatha and spilled. Twisted up the brake levers and got a scrape on each knee and lovely raspberry on my right elbow. Jammed my shoulder too, just for good measure. Luckily, I wasn't able to feel the pain then and there, and I thanked the concerned driver who asked about my well being and scurried off to the bar...

This morning I didn't bike (go figure) and my shoulder really hurts. So it goes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Biking to da bar

My route to Town Hall yesterday.

Windy yesterday. 20 mph from the East and Northeast with gusts to damn near 30 mph. Ugh. Of course it blew from the North/Northeast when I was biking North and straight East when I was on the Greenway. Oh well, there's lots of reasons not to ride and wind is one of 'em.

Today, 45 degrees and rain. No riding today.

Rain is another reason not to ride. I'm a wuss, so sue me...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Mrs BrotherYam and I are on a quest of sorts, I suppose. We have signed up for the Minnesota State Parks' Hiking and Passport clubs. You go to all the parks, you win a prize. You walk all the club trails, you get a prize. Nothing earth-shattering, but hey, we're "out there doin' it" as me Mrs likes to say.

Why do I bring this up? A co-worker of mine is on the phone talking about quests. Everquest quests. To slay the Bugblatter Beast of Traal or some such nonesense, I don't know. But it doesn't involve walking. Well, online walking, which consists of sitting on your ass while you walk. Carrying your Staff of Power and your 1000 League Boots on your feet, you sit on your ass and walk to the ravenous beast and then sit on your ass as you slay it. Then you get knowledge or strength points or some other stuff that doesn't really convert into any Real World thing.

Okay, me Mrs and I aren't about to run into whatever monster is making the kids dance these days, but I'm willing to bet that these online hard guys wouldn't have been so tough last weekend after our fifth park -- and eleventh mile -- in two days.

That was not done on our asses but up real hills with real mud and real slush.

Maybe Gear Fetishists Have A Point

I'm back. I'm riding to work again and I've gotten an actual, real-live biking jacket, er, shell. I have to say that I'm impressed with the thought that went into it, snug where it should be and loose where it needs to be. Vented, windproof -- it was about 45 degrees this morning when I rode, so keeping the wind off was good -- light and really, really bright green.

The traffic on 66th and on Penn gave me wide berth this morning and I think that the green had a lot to do with it. Even the old, tired eyes of Richfield can see me in this...

My time is pretty good, but I forgot to reset the trip odo, so I don't know how long exactly it took. The wind was at my back for most of the trip and the cool air felt good.

I forgot how much I like biking...