Monday, October 12, 2009

It's just a mild obsession...

Our bike herd recently reached peak overpopulation to date: eight bikes/frames. Yes, we live in an apartment and yes, there are only two of us. Since we do have a garage, we are (er, I am) not quite as bad as Vik (The Lazy Radonneur) ...not yet. Since the herd is now in the process of being culled I thought I would document it at its most bloated.

Surly Karate Monkey - This has served as my primary bike during my time in Missippi. It has been used as an urban assault vehicle/commuter with fenders and lights then stripped back down to run single track. It was a test bed for various bars I wanted to try out and I ended up sticking with the On-One Mary. It has been my single favorite bike to date and if I had money to burn I would keep it and continue experimenting, but it has been sold and shipped off to NYC to replace someone's stolen commuter.

IRO Mark V - I wanted to build a fixed gear bike and I grabbed this lightly used track-inspired frame off ebay for a good price... shortly before I was offered the Peugeot (see below.) The classic French road frame is a much more stable, comfortable, and unique ride with the added bonus that it is likely to get less attention when locked up. It was also a much better fit for my fixie plans (which owe more inspiration to Sheldon Brown than to hipsters and bike messengers.) I temporarily built up the IRO up with the parts for the Peugot just to try it out and it felt twitchy and small. The frameset went back up on ebay and is currently on its way to Arizona.

Trek 600 (I think? It's spray-bombed) - Four years ago this was my first attempt at a single speed/fixed gear project. I inherited the bike from a friend in Omaha who didn't care to take it with them when they moved and quickly discovered that I had neither the tools nor the knowledge to do what I wanted with it. Monkey Wrench Cycles wasn't as much help as I had hoped (though I enjoyed reading their blog and drooling over their great collection of 'vintage' mountain bikes.) It has been sitting in my garage gathering dust ever since. I'm finally starting to part it out on ebay and the frame will probably be donated to BicycleWORKS when we get up to the St Louis area.

RANS Fusion - I started reading about recumbent bikes and the carfree movement when I was a freshman at Hope College. A few years later, after I enlisted in the Air Force I found myself with disposable income for the first time and while I still couldn't afford a high end recumbent, I could swing this semi-recumbent. I have enjoyed riding it, but it never really clicked with me for anything but cruising around on bike trails. I made a few half-hearted attempts to sell it, but it stuck around and Michelle has been riding it until we find her a bike that truly suits her... then it will have to go for real.

Terry Symmetry - When we first went looking for a bike for Michelle, she was feeling the effects of the weight and laid-back fit of the RANS so she was put off by my description of the Surly Long Haul Trucker I recommended as 'not a super fast bike.' She said she wanted something faster, so I got her this Georgena Terry sporty road bike. If it looks a little funny, that may because it is a tiny bike with a 700c rear and 24" front wheels in order to properly fit someone 5' tall. It is a great bike, but narrow, high pressure tires, drop bars and a roadie tuck turned out to be too far in the opposite direction and we're looking for new home for it.

Raleigh Record - Michelle is fond of a pretty step-through frame and I wanted her to try a single speed. This ebay purchase didn't turn out quite the way we had hoped. Apparently low-end old steel bikes are really heavy... Who'da thunk? Worse, the single speed build left a good deal to be desired. This frame is up for sale on craigslist, but if I can't get most of my money back out of it then I'll build it up around an old Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub, throw a basket on it and Michelle will have a city bike to go with her future touring/country bike.

Peugeot UO-8? - I was given a 70s steel Peugeot road bike for free (thanks Raff!) and only realized that it was not the common UO-8, but their top of the line 1977 PX-10 after I had finished tearing it down prior to building it back up as a fixie. The components were in bad shape and the frame is a bit ratty, so not feeling too guilty that this bike will probably never be restored. It will however be ridden and enjoyed... assuming I can figure out how to remove the drive side bottom bracket cup without destroying the frame.

Surly 1x1=11 - The latest addition, the first new bike I've purchased since my collection really started growing (and then only because it was half price.) The anniversary edition of Surly's first model is basically an adult-scale version of the standard BMX-style kids bike: steel, single speed and big fat tires (24" wheels with 4" wide tires to be exact!) Pure dumb fun. This frame is almost as versatile as the Karate Monkey was and it will likely see some experiments of its own (a CETMA front rack is already in the works and internally geared hubs are under consideration.)

Once we sell/donate everything we plan to get rid of then I will be down to two niche bikes and Michelle will have at most one bike. We are then planning on buying a pair of all-around bikes to be our respective long-term primary rides and to eventually do some long distance touring. We are wavering back and forth between the ridiculously good value of a pair of Surly Long Haul Truckers or a couple of more extravagant Rivendells. Well, I am wavering. Michelle would be happy either way; she leans a little toward the more affordable Surlys despite being besotted with the Betty Foy and just wants me to make up my mind.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Need input..." Johnny 5

I have a voracious appetite for new ideas and information. One of the downsides of leaving my job as a programmer is no longer sitting at a computer all day with the opportunity to query Google or Wikipedia on any subject that happened to be on my mind during even the briefest of downtime from work. As the short history of this blog can attest, my creative output has suffered in direct proportion to the lack of fodder (and keyboard time: I'll scribble sketches and half-formed ideas all day with a pen and paper, but I'm far more likely to string together more than a sentence or two if I can type.)
As I try to prioritize my online reading in order to make the most of my limited time I have at home I am finally making use of RSS and the like. Google Reader is a convenient central collection point and it helps me deal with the fact that there will always be far more interesting material out there than I can take in by presenting me with an up-to-date selection from a variety of sources. Of course I'm limited to those sources which are syndicated and that mainly means blogs. While many other media sites offer syndicated content, in my experience subscribing to those feeds has a tendency to weaken the signal to noise ratio considerably.
Which brings me to a question: what blogs (or other feeds) would you recommend? Currently my list is composed mainly of personal finance, bicycling, farm and garden, food, architecture and urban development, and sustainability blogs. I would be particularly interested in adding some literate commentary (why isn't Net Future syndicated?) photography, woodworking, music and Korean or Spanish language blogs, but I'm happy to check out anything you'd like to pass along.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Place and position

I suppose the next step is filling you in on where I'm at. Although my job as programmer here at Keesler AFB was not a bad one and in fact there was a project with a great deal of potential coming down the pipe, nonetheless I didn't want to stick around if I could help it. My reason for applying to retraining as a linguist in the first place still applied even though that didn't work out in the end: I don't want to spend my whole career as a programmer. On top of that, while over the past year or so Michelle has found a few things she likes about Mississippi, they are far outweighed by downsides, with the summer weather first among them. With that in mind, when the NCO retraining program opened up in August last year I applied for retraining again.
My first choice was a long shot at linguist again, if they were willing to send us back to Monterey and have me learn another language we wouldn't say no. It was a bit of a let down, but no surprise to find they weren't looking for any linguists at the time. Second was a surgical assistant position as I have long wanted to spend at least a bit of time in the medical world (more on that subject to follow.) It turned out that I hadn't read enough of the fine print on that one, you had to already be a physician's assistant to be eligible. My third choice was weather. I've always had a tendency to watch the sky and I figured it would be a good opportunity to learn what was actually going on up there. I don't remember now what other jobs were on my list, but I was accepted for retraining into weather.
There is a seven month long tech school for weather, which was fine by me (I will never complain about being paid to sit in a classroom and learn things,) but the downside was that it was right here on Keesler. We had our guaranteed ticket out of here, but the departure date was a little farther off than we might have hoped and we would be spending another summer here. It is worth it though, and I now have tentative orders to Scott AFB in Belleville, IL (just across the Mississippi River from St Louis) when my class ends in October. It will be wonderful to have regular access to a real city again in addition to a return to a proper four season climate! Another big plus is that both Michelle and I will have access to the schooling we intend to get for ourselves over the next couple of years.
In the end, although my failure to become a linguist was frustrating at the time, I may have gotten the best possible result: I got the benefit of a year and a half in Monterey, I learned a language, I met Michelle and then I didn't have to go on and actually do the tedious day-to-day work of a intel analyst. If only I could have had all that without giving up those orders to Okinawa... Ah well!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Listening Period

'It has been four months since my last post Father...'

In that time I have:

- Visited Ohio.
- Had a visitor from Ohio (Hi Mom!)
- Made the best car vs. money decision of my life.
- Worked on selling some of our many vehicles, with limited success.
- Completed half of my retraining to the weather career field. By the time I leave the weather school I will have spent 1/3 of my Air Force career to date in training status. Not what I had in mind when I signed up primarily for 'educational benefits,' but I'll take it.
- Discovered that being in class instead of work does horrible things to my internet-reading and blog-writing time.
- Spent more time thinking about building bicycles and houses than about farming.
- Re-built one bicycle and juggled several others.
- Sketched out designs for several houses.
- Fit a good deal of pieces together regarding my plans for the future

Most of these deserve a post of their own at the least rather than trying to squeeze it all into one epic opus as I had been trying to do. So for now this is just a sign-post, a marker to show that Job Run is not, after all, a dead letter.