Saturday, May 19, 2007

Pondering the Quilt

Deborah has been working on this quilt for ages. Well, four or five years, anyway — with some significant breaks to rear a few children. (Apparently, sitting to nurse a baby, and then sitting some more to do some quilting didn't have that much appeal.) We've been listening to audiobooks in the evenings together while she sews.

She's almost done.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Happy traaaaails to you...

Now that the new trails have opened up in the woods, and most of the bike paths are in place, we've been taking the kids out riding with us. Paul occasionally joins us, too. Between the trailer and the bikes in the shed, we've got seating for eight!


Since Aiden is now big enough to go riding with us, he now also gets a helmet. He picked the design out himself — bright yellow with little white chicks. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but then, my helmet is a graphite gray. How dull!

Pulling that trailer keeps me humble. As we were going up an incline, I stabbed the shifter down to get a lower gear, and discovered that I didn't have any lower gears left!

The new trails are beautiful. The new pavement is black and smooth, almost dreamy. The old mountain bike trails — the ones I used to ride back when it was still "trespassing" to do so — are still there, but Deborah prefers to go on the paved trails with me. Somehow, dodging trees and bouncing over roots at high speed doesn't jive with her idea of a relaxing afternoon. Go figure!

Job Posting

I came across a rare and fascinating thing yesterday: A job posting for the exact sort of thing I like to do, without all the things that I'm not very good at. Most job listings I see for designers and webmasters these days have a list the length of your arm of platforms, programming languages, and frameworks that I don't know (or don't have any real reason or opportunity to learn.) By contrast, Blogger (well, Google) is hiring a "visual designer":

Google is looking for a visual designer with solid skills in graphic design, and an excellent eye for typography, clean layout, purposeful color, and refined style. You must have a deep appreciation for simple, sleek, usable interfaces. You will be responsible for all stages of design on one or more of Google's consumer-facing products. Therefore, you must think strategically while executing with great attention to detail. Your goal is to create a look consistent with the all of Google while delighting our users. You must have the ability to successfully collaborate with other designers, product managers, and engineers to develop innovative, user-friendly, best-of-breed products that adhere to and help build the Google brand. The ideal candidate for this position possesses a solid understanding of user-centered design principles, absolute comfort working with HTML and CSS, excellent visual design skills, great technical know-how, and proven expertise in designing for the Web.

Preferred qualifications:
  • Solid understanding of working with and designing for web applications.
  • Comfortable working with basic Javascript.
  • Experience working on large-scale consumer websites.
  • BA/BS or above in Graphic Design, Information Design, or other visual arts; strong technical background a plus.
  • Minimum of 3+ years experience designing outstanding web-based products for a consumer-oriented website as a key member of a design team.
  • Proven ability to act as a leader in communicating conceptual ideas and design rationale, all within a user-centered design process.
  • Must be able to work and communicate effectively in a cross-functional product development team, and present ideas and designs effectively.
  • Must be self-motivated to prioritize and manage work load, and meet critical project milestones and deadlines.
  • Must be an effective problem solver. Comes up with creative solutions and considers many alternative solutions to each problem.
  • Must be able to cope well in an ambiguous environment.
  • Must have excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to build good working relationships.
  • Fluent in HTML and CSS, and full knowledge of their capabilities and limitations.
  • Use Adobe Photoshop and/or Fireworks like a pro.

I don't have to explain that I was (am?) severely tempted. I like Google. I'd love to work on Blogger. (There are a lot of things I'd like to fix, starting with the infinite-loop "help" system...) I even like California. (I will only listen to criticisms of California from other people who have actually set foot in the state. The rest of you, hush up.) The only thing I wonder about on that list is the "ambiguous working environment." What does that mean? No one knows where they're going? They move from warehouse to warehouse, and hold meetings on random street corners?

But I'm not applying. Or, I haven't yet. Or... Part of me aches to grab for what sounds perfect on the surface, and much of me realizes how content I really am with the place I am now. I'm not rich, certainly, but I am blessed. Am I holding myself back, setting my sights too low, convincing myself I can't have something better? Or am I right to think that what I have now would be tough to beat?

[ *** Sigh *** ]

Thursday, May 17, 2007

How does your garden grow?

It's almost safe to say that we've had the last frost here. Not a guarantee, of course, but we were confident enough to plant the front garden again. I mostly concerned myself with mowing and fertilizing the lawn, while Paul and Deborah planted the impatiens we had picked out that morning.

What goes next here? A pink-and-white striped one?

Aiden helped.

Fiona worried me by playing with the more pointy tools.

We had a few left over, so we took them over to Paul's apartment and planted them by his front steps. This apparently inspired Paul and his roommate to spend the rest of the day cleaning and making improvements to the apartment.

I can't put my finger exactly on what I like about this picture. Maybe it's the composition, or the flowers on her dress and by the steps, or the contrast of the old and the weathered against the fresh and the new. Whatever. I like it.

Can I ride, Daddy?

While Deborah, Paul, and Aiden were off planting flowers at Paul's house, Fiona and I sat outside enjoying the warm sunshine together. Fiona pointed and said, "Let's go for a ride on your motorcycle, Daddy!" I've been longing for the day when I can once again ride with someone, so I didn't immediately say no — instead, I plopped Fiona onto the seat to see if she was big enough yet. (Indiana law doesn't specify an age; the requirement is that the passenger should be able to touch the footpegs.) Not quite yet, but sometime, sometime soon. Maybe another year or two...

Not quite big enough yet.
She can touch the pegs if she sits in the driver's seat — but then, where would I sit?

I could drive, yes? Please, Daddy?

Well, no, you can't ride if you're going to do stunts...

Sit her on a motorcycle and she looks at herself in the mirrors. She is such a girl. A boy would probably have knocked the bike over pretending to steer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A bunny thing happened on the way to work...

I wasn't watching the road on my way home for lunch on Monday, so I ended up running over something hard and square-edged. Wow, amazing I didn't get pinch flats! I thought. After lunch I discovered that both tires were flat, so I asked Deborah if she would pick up some new tubes while I took the motorcycle back to work. She did, but inadvertently got one with the wrong kind of valve, so I stopped by to swap it on my way to work on Tuesday.

When I came out, I discovered this little guy sitting by my tires. I didn't think the middle of a parking lot was the greatest place for a little bunny, so I tried shooing him back to the grass. To my amazement, he let me pick him up. At that point, my artistic side told me it was a shame that I didn't have my camera, as this was obviously a willing subject. But how would I go get it? He obviously couldn't ride like this...

Easy Rider. I opened my coat a little, and he hopped in eagerly, out of the cold wind. I had a hard time getting him out of there, actually.

Is that a banana in your pocket or... hey, is that a rabbit and a banana in your pocket?

So I went home, got the camera, and got a few dozen pictures.

Once I was done with his photo session, we rode together back to the bike shop, and I released him into the foliage, where he hopped away happily.

Weathering the Storm

I remember looking at the weather map yesterday afternoon and thinking, "This wasn't such a great day to ride my motorcycle to work..." There was a line of severe thunderstorms all the way from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and they would be hitting right about the time I was supposed to get off of work.

Deborah called a bit later to tell me the power had gone out, and to ask if she needed to go hide out in the bathroom — the safest room in our house for tornadoes. The sky wasn't the sickly green color I associate with tornado weather, and there wasn't anything worse than a severe thunderstorm warning, so I said that she didn't need to worry about how to entertain the kids in our itty-bitty bathroom.

After I got home, we went for a walk around the island (what else was there to do?) to see what damage had been done. There wasn't any to our place, thank God, but a few other places had not been so fortunate. It wasn't anywhere near the July 4 storm of a few years ago that necessitated the evacuation of the island, but there was some damage nonetheless.

This is the coach house, over by the Boathouse restaurant. This tree had dropped several large branches into the canal this winter, so I guess it was fairly weak already.

We followed the flashing lights and found the source of our own power outage. Another tree had come down, taking two power poles with it, one of then snapped off clean at the base. The firefighters were there mainly to keep things under control until NIPSCO could actually show up and do something about the downed lines. Deborah had called to report the outage, and had to listen to a list of some 50 towns that had power outages to see if Winona Lake was already on the list. It wasn't, so she added it.

You can see one of the poles leaning just above the brown shed. The architecture of many of the homes along the canal is... unique.

It was getting darker as we made our way home, and we realized that we only had one flashlight. Or, rather, we only had one working flashlight that Fiona had not disassembled and broken. The one left was a green dinosaur that roars when you pull the handle, and opens it's mouth to reveal the light. It has the advantage that we always know where the kids are...


So we called up Paul. He brought over half a dozen or so lights, and I went out to get some batteries, and some ice cream for us all to enjoy by candlelight.

We got our power back awhile after midnight.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Odd Onions

We have some odd onions around here.

Update (?) on race crash

For the past few days, I've been swapping emails with Aaron, a teammate of the guy that accidentally crashed into the girl at the races. There seem to be two different stories about what happened — one where he knew he had hit a spectator, and kept on going (which would lead to disciplinary action by the USCF), and one where he didn't realize what had happened, and got back into the race. I've been hunting around to try to find someone who saw the incident directly, but all I've found so far is people who didn't see it, but have a strong opinion about it one way or the other.

I've tried finding out more about the girl and her condition, too, but all I've found is that she was from out of town. Investigative reporting isn't something I'm much good at, apparently.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Full Quiver

3 Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD,
   and the fruit of the womb is His reward.

4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man,
   so are the children of the youth.

5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them;
   they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak
       with the enemies at the gate.

Psalm 127:3–5

I had to get this photo while it was still possible to lift them both with a single hand each!

Oddly enough, even though they're two years apart, both Fiona and Aiden weigh about the same — Deborah flatly denies this — something I attribute to Aiden eating just about everything you give him and asking for more, while Fiona has to be reminded to finish her food.

I certainly won't be able to do this with three. No, that's not an announcement.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Blood, Sweat, Gears (and Beers) at the Fat & Skinny Tire Fest

With the Village at Winona just down the street from us, there are events going on all the time. At Christmastime, we're treated to live music from a group of horn players. We make a point of strolling through the Art Fair in June. And there's one event that we can't possibly ignore: The Annual Fat & Skinny Tire Festival. Part of the reason we can't ignore it is that the road races pass right in front of our house. (These are the "skinny tires" — the fat-tired mountain bike races are out in the woods.)

The whole island pretty much shuts down for the races. They start early on Sunday morning, and you have to move your car off the streets the night before, as they block off the roads. (This makes getting to church a little tricky; we parked over by the post office and used the stroller to get the kids to the car.) Most everyone sits out on their porch or sidewalk to watch.

Nick and Brett had the party across the street in full swing. Fortunately, we all liked the music they were playing, because it pervaded everything. We could tell whenever the peloton was approaching by the distinctive mix of sound: Dance music, cowbells, cheering, and chattering whir of 50 speeding bicycles. I hadn't remembered cowbells from the races I watched in Spain, but everyone on the block had them. I wondered what they knew that I didn't.

We ribbed Nick mercilessly about taking the siding off his house the day before the races. Several news crews got footage of the party along with the race.

Half the races were over by the time we got home from church. The Category 4/5 race was going on when we got there, so after we tucked the kids in for their naps, I told Deborah I was going to walk arund the block and get pictures.

Lest you be impressed by such pictures, keep in mind that these are only one of about 70 that I took, and I also mananged to get a good number of shots of the opposite curb, with no bicycles in sight.

Bicycle Racing, Winona Style.

After I got that shot, I crossed the street, and headed up the sidewalk towards the finish line. Some of our neighbors were out, watching the races. As I was walking by, one of them said, "Hey, would you like some sausage casserole?"

Well... OK...! It wasn't the way I was used to being greeted, but I certainly didn't mind. As I was sampling the rather generous portion on my plate, and debating between the variety of hot sauces available (I think I like these people...) they also offered me a Bloody Mary, which was also portioned out rather generously. I had no excuse not to stay and chat a while.

My outgoing hosts on this section of the sidewalk turned out to be Hal and Jennifer Harting. (I could have sworn her name was Lisa or Lindsey, but the phone book says Jennifer, so I'll go with that.) Hal has a fierce shock of long, pure-white hair, and rides the 1978 BMW motorcycle that I have stopped to admire on many occasions. We chatted a bit about riding, and I asked about the wide assortment of cowbells that were on the picnic tables, and being rung with every passing lap of the race. "I went into TSC [Tractor Supply Company] and said, 'I want some cowbells,'" he explained. "They asked, 'Well, what tone do you want?' and I said, 'All of them! Give me two of every one you have.'" From the looks of it, TSC carries at least 6 different tones.

Realizing I had promised to help prepare lunch, I cut short my trip around the block, and said I needed to get back home, where, I joked, Deborah would want to know where I had been, why I had a drink, and why I hadn't brought her one.

I should joke more carefully. I probably wouldn't have drawn any attention at all, walking along with two large cups, but the Hartings had garnished the drinks with two of the biggest celery stalks I've ever seen. I felt a little conspicuous.

Paul, Deborah and I fixed lunch. We set the table for four out of habit, and only after a long while did we realize that we really only needed three. It's strange having May gone. Was it really only Friday morning that she left to go back to New Hampshire?

The final race started as we were finishing the lunch preparations. Once everything was in the oven, we retired to the picnic table (provided by the town, free for the asking, for this event) to watch the race. I provided color commentary for Deborah and Paul, pointing out what strategies the racers were using, and oppining on whether the currect breakaway would succeed. After a few dozen laps, I got up walked the other way around the block towards the finish line, to see what there was to see there.

Quite a bit.

Most of the spectators were out by turn 1, where there was also commentary broadcast, booths, tables, and all manner of things bike-related.

This sign still reeks of irony.

Some of the races are sponsored by the local orthopedic industry. Warsaw, IN, is the self-proclaimed "Orthopaedic Capital of the World." This trophy is made up of a sprocket and three hip implants.

You can't see it well in the picture there, but at least one of the hips says, "do not implant." Good thing they said that; after what I saw, some of the race participants might have been tempted.

Turn 1 is a devilishly tricky left-hander coming off the bridge — blind, tight, steep, downhill, off-camber, and recently painted. I had marveled that there hadn't been accidents on that corner in previous years; this year, I saw two in the 15 minutes I was standing there. They were nasty.

Can you see the disgust?

The first one I saw was about 10 laps before the end of the race, when a rider blew a a tire going through the corner. He went down, and the rider directly behind him went over the hay bales. The second rider jumped up and got back into the race, apparently not realizing that he had clobbered one of the spectators pretty badly — a young girl, about 10, I think. The paramedics took her away on a back board. When the rider found out what had happened, he quit from his third-place position in the race and asked to be taken to the hospital to see her.

I don't have further details about who she was, or her condition. She wasn't mentioned in the newspaper I bought this afternoon.

The second one occurred just three laps before the end, as one rider's tire slid out in the turn, taking down about 8 riders; about half of those managed to get back on and keep riding, the others out of the race for injuries or mechanical reasons. One guy couldn't get up right away, prompting a lot of jumping and handwaving around the corner to keep the fast-approaching pack from running him over. It occurred to me that bicycle racing could learn a lot from motorcycle racing — on the track, you have corner workers with flags, watching out for problems just like this one, and ready to wave different colored flags to signal the approaching riders of the problem ahead. It wouldn't be practical for long races through the countryside, but it could be a lifesaver — possibly literally — on a criterium like this one.

Nice shot, Gary! I'm actually in this photo; you can see the top of my head and Aiden's right where the tree meets the red jersey. After that, I moved to a safer place...

Getupgetupgetup, the pack is coming....!

As I was heading back home after the end of the race, I met up with Gary Neiter, the photographer for the Warsaw Times-Union, and prof. for all of the photography classes I took at Grace. He didn't recognize me at first, but we chatted for a bit once he remembered me. He was floored to meet Aiden, and more so when I said he was my youngest. Ah, yes, time has passed since I was in his classes back in 1997 or so!

After lunch, I went and joined the party across the street for a while, and was pressed with more food and drink. (Yep, we have friendly neighbors!) Even some of the guys who had been racing were there. Brett gave me a short lecture on various beers available and their merits, I chatted with John Hawkins about photography, and a number of people crowded around to see my pictures and news of what had happened at the other end of the race course.

And that was plenty of excitement for a single afternoon.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Greenway updates

I stopped in to ask Rob about the sign on the bike shop lawn. He said he'd gotten a few queries about it, but that it just meant that there should be no bikes on the sidewalk, as it wasn't wide enough. I shot him a curious glance, and asked if he'd actually seen the sign. He hadn't, so I took him out to the corner. His response was hilarious. No bikes! Right on the lawn of the bike shop! And he hadn't even known it was there! Fortunately, Rob has a pretty good sense of humor, and he told me that it was part of a regulation for the marking of the greenway, and certain things were required to get the state funding. Still...

Elsewhere, as I had hoped, they've been painting lines to supplement the plethora of signs on the new greenway. It's much easier to figure out now.

This looks promising. Note the suggestion of helmet usage.

On the bright side, we've got better traffic direction here. On the down side, we now have a concrete post to run into.

Marking lines for painting a path along E. Canal St. By the way, there's no crosswalk here, either!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Phoenix also Rises

The Phoenix hasn't run right since I last did any serious work on it back in January. This last weekend, though, I popped the hood and went back to work on it. The new thermostat (along with the correct gasket) went in like butter — the 15-minute job it was supposed to be. I found where the extraneous vacuum hose went. It started! It took a while to clear out the old gas out of the carbs, but once that was done, it ran just fine.

Granted, the right-side door still doesn't work. I improvised with a few bungie cords for the test cruise, but that kept opening a few inches when I went around corners. I admit my first instinct was to just tack-weld the door shut, but I'm not sure that's the best way to go about this.

Doors that stay closed? Who needs those...?