Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

Strategic Plotting

I’m fairly convinced that I’m bad at chess and war games for the same reason that I’m bad at plot development. I cannot think ahead in that way, considering different contingencies, adjusting my plans in advance. I’m bad at debates for the same reason, unless it’s a topic in which I am confident – like the best route to ride to school. Some people, like people who are wicked at puzzles and the like, can slap down a strategy like a $2 mortgage payment. Me, it’s like trying to fork over a lung while still breathing. Because of this ineptitude, I need your help to prevent anybody whispering checkmate in my unsuspecting ear.

At issue for me today is a different kind of plotting, thankfully not my garden or my grave (which reminds me, I wrote my epitaph when I was 13: Rose’s toes over there and her nose this way goes). I mentioned in my last post that I intend to work in some time over the holidays to interview my mom and aunt for a writing project. My priority would be to talk to my aunt and get as much of that done as possible – she has seniority since she’s 81.

My aunt, Tia I’ll call her since that’s what I call her, is awesome and energetic and some sort of biological enigma. She’s also got great stories that weave into other stories and include unnecessary details about temperature, carpet colour, time of day, sale price. I feel relatively well equipped to handle her meanderings. She deals well with interruption. I think questions and other prompts will help. What I’m not so sure about is getting her to sign onto the project in the first place.

Don’t go thinking I’m about to go manipulating a senior into some sketchy exposé about how much she pays for garbage pick up. I don’t plan on getting her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. I don’t think Tia would be against this idea at all in principle. In fact, I think she’d be interested and pleased, and also recognize that it gives me an opportunity to learn more about my dad, her brother, too. But she’s a bit funny. She’s anxious by nature and this hasn’t improved in recent years. Further, it’ll be the Christmas season and she’s likely to be in Tia mode, with family arriving unannounced for a week or whisking her away or expecting to be fed or building her a new wall unit. Also, my mom suspects that if I give her any notice, she’s likely to obsessively stress and get herself into quite a tizzy. On the other hand, without notice, it seems a little presumptuous to show up at her house with a sleeping bag and the modern day equivalent of a tape recorder, make a pot of tea and say, “OK, Tia. I’m writing a book about your life. Now, you were born March of 1930, right?”

You may be wondering why I don’t just go with the flow and see how she reacts. I’d love to be all, “Universe, show me the way” about this. But my panic is as follows: at the risk of being dramatic, it’s hard to foresee a time in the next few years where I will be able to dedicate another week to this sort of thing. Tia lives 9 hours away, so occasional mini-sessions are not really an option. The phone I think would be a little bit atrocious, under the circumstances. I don’t want to take it for granted that Tia will be around for another gazillion years.

My mom, being the devious little monkey that she is, is tasked with telling Tia I’m planning to interview my mom and seeing how she reacts. I’m eagerly awaiting the report. In the meantime, I’m still trying to strategize, which is a little like paddling a kayak with one arm.

So I’m asking you dear savvy and sensitive readers, how do I approach this? And, seriously what is the modern equivalent to a tape recorder? I actually need to know.

November 16, 2011 Posted by | Cycling, Portuguese-ness?, Writing | , , , | 13 Comments

3 Memorable Bike Crashes I Could do Without

I have never been a physical activity hero. In fact I’m the kid who wheezed around the school field every day in P.E. for all of elementary school. Mercifully there was a little less wheezing in high school. Unfortunately, there were other more painful sources of embarrassment.

Cycling, however, has always been a relative strength of mine. This may well be because cycling doesn’t take much coordination and because when I was five and learning to ride my bike I didn’t yet think I was an exercise-leper. I just had to learn like everybody else and I worked at it. And learn and work I did. I’ll never forget my red and white banana seat, my dad steadying me and feeling the wind through my hair (back in ye olde time before helmets were de rigueur).

Not surprisingly, I’ve been in a few scrapes in my time. Thankfully, to date, none of them have involved cars (knock on wood, pay homage to the universe). From about 5 to 10 I’m fairly sure I walked home once a year wailing all the way from the end of the back alley having scraped all my knees and elbows on the gravel. But there have been three particularly inglorious incidents.

Episode #1: Dogmeat

It was a fine fall evening. I was headed home from my friend’s house. She was seeing me off, waving, as her excited dogs dashed and pranced around her. The wind was once again blowing through my hair as dusk hinted at its arrival. The evening was always my favourite time to ride. I felt grown up, free and fast riding along the relatively deserted roads. Despite the increased traffic, I still love those late rides. As I said, there was waving, wind blowing and prancing. For some reason known only to canines, my friends’ dogs became very interested in me, my bike or something across the street. I tried to brake or swerve, but it all happened too fast. I struck the shelti right in the ribs. She skittered off looking at me like I had some sort of attitude problem, as light on her feet as always. Meanwhile I had gone ass over sissy brakes, but forgotten (somehow) to let go of my bike. I landed face down on the pavement with a fine set of handlebars cushioning the blow right across my thighs. In retrospect it’s better that my thighs were cushioned than my face or my shins, but I didn’t appreciate that at the time. I can’t remember if I told my friend her dog was stupid and got all huffy, but I know I wanted to.

Episode #2: Hayfever

Once again, I was at a friend’s house. It was a glorious summer day – August 22nd to be exact. We were playing in the field beside her house playing the game we’d recently invented. In the game, we imagined we were rent-a-cops on bikes. We would ride through the streets in her neighbourhood noting infractions to one another and taking our bikes to “the shop”. I’m not sure what we were doing in the grassy field, but I am sure it was riveting. We were about to set off to patrol the area. I was straddling my bike, not yet standing on the pedals. I couldn’t get my front tire to straighten out in the long grass. I lost my balance somehow (being me) and my bike tire, doing what bike tires like to do, rolled to the right. I fell with my bike. You may be wondering why I haven’t gotten back to tales of neighbourhood intrigue given that I fell off my bike from a standing position. It’s a fair question. The story is worthy because somehow – heaven help me – I broke my freaking arm in this fall. In two places actually, almost clean through. My arm looked like someone had taken the letter “s” and pulled on each end, but only a little. I passed out. I woke up and screamed bloody murder. I wore a cast for 13 weeks. It’s a wonder I’m not a hall-of-famer.

Episode #3: Superpavement

Just a few days ago (you knew where this was going), I was racing myself home, trying to beat my previous times. I was going about 20km/hr. It was definitely time to ease up on my racing goal, as I was about 100 metres from my front door, but hindsight is always 20/20. In yet another glorious cycling move, my tire got caught on the outside lip of the path I had been using. In that inexplicable way that one can do the same thing right 99 times out of 100, but be guaranteed to do it wrong every now and again, instead of just steering into the grass, or braking for that matter, I kept trying to get back on top. And boy, did I. My bike told me where to go and I flew like superman, arm extended, wind rippling. Too bad that instead of gliding through the air I was skidding along the pavement, helmet bouncing (yup, finally integrated the helmet). After what felt like an hour, my body stopped. My superman arm was exploding with pain. Kind people stopped to help and thankfully I was so very close to home. My shoulder on the other hand is pretty sure that superman sucks and I should never extend my arm again. Hopefully it’s wrong.

Just picture more pavement below.

* This may in fact be the crudest chop job of all time. With no photo editing software I had to get creative (i.e. even uglier than a purposefully ugly superimposed head should be).

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Childhood Complaints, Cycling, Doing it the hard way | , , , | 4 Comments

I don’t get out much

I wrote the following four sentences six months ago as a draft.

“As I believe I’ve said before, my life is not a run away train of Huck Finn adventures (clearly, if Huck Finn is my reference). There’s mainly a lot of computer sitting, interspersed with some domestic activities, bike rides, movies and yoga. I don’t mind at all, but I think many would perish at the mere thought of such an existence. The bonus, obviously, is the excitement over little things.”

Sadly things have slid to a lower level of excitement in the last couple of months.Unfortunately, right now, the list of little things to celebrate has been downgraded from bike rides and yoga to items such as

  • making a complete and tasty meal, which still happens but not as often as I would like
  • cleaning the kitchen
  • having the bus arrive just as I do but without the stress of the half-block jog
  • scavenging enough food for my lunch (PB&J, chunk of halveh, banana, chunk of cheese – yay, can’t find anything green in there? you got it!)
  • the days I don’t need long-johns
  • movies
  • watching my plants grow
  • grapefruit
  • daydreaming about going to physio again
  • phone calls
  • and, ever so rarely, writing something, anything.

Of course, this is a snapshot of a particularly busy time that is equal to much less than a whole life (hopefully). But I am still keenly aware that I am allowing life to pass me by. I can’t even say I’m watching it, because I am a bit of a prisoner in my own head. Moments of lucidity are rare. (The other day I noticed a tree was budding and I nearly fell over from surprise, at the budding and the noticing.) I am still enjoying life, or parts of it, on a daily basis, for which I am eternally grateful. But I am acutely conscious that if I die tomorrow it will not be atop a mountain peak either real or metaphoric but in a relatively dark canyon or crevasse, with it’s own beauty and wonder, but lacking the glory of the skies.

It’s a good thing I’ve crammed in some planned fun for this summer!

March 5, 2011 Posted by | Brackets, Cycling, Doing it the hard way, Law, Self-reflection, Waste | 4 Comments

On an appreciation kick

At the risk of sounding goober-tastic, I decided to list all of the things that are giving me mini-thrills in the new home. There’s been no painting, so mainly they having nothing to do with ownership.

  • trees and other greenery out the window
  • a new bed (which didn’t come with the place but came the same day so it seems related enough)
  • a second bedroom, even if right now it’s a bit of a dumping pile
  • a non-tiled bathtub/shower (no icky grout)
  • two sink kitchen
  • storage (not in a pile behind the bedroom door)
  • relatedly, knowing I have camping equipment without looking at it every day to make sure
  • windows on multiple sides and the resulting breeze
  • lack of carpet
  • a kitchen bar/counter situation into the dining room
  • having nothing I own at my mother’s house or my in-laws’ house
  • sights, sounds and smells from the neighbouring park including guitars, playing, swinging and scolding as well as  day camp kids instructed to run from one end to the other screaming for five minutes straight
  • being allowed to have a bbq, even though there isn’t one yet
  • not sharing the bathroom with the cat
  • the cat sharing a bathroom with the recycling closet (a closet dedicated to recycling is pure luxury)
  • biking right into and out of the building
  • still being a block from a grocery store
  • watching the cat explore hesitantly, then act like she owns the place a day later
  • in suite laundry
  • being closer to the ferry for those 6am sprints rare though they are
  • and that commute is still pretty fun too

Most of this stuff didn’t even bother me before, but I really appreciate how not getting too fancy early on has allowed me to  enjoy these little improvements. My “simple life”, though still much more complicated than the lives of many, gives me all the more to have fun with, which may just sound silly, I don’t know.

That said, there are downsides besides expense. The main one is the well-meaning (read: colourful adjective) dishwasher. duh duh dunhhhh

July 9, 2010 Posted by | Consumption, Cycling, Hypotheticals, Waste | | 2 Comments

Bless the Commute!

I’ve been admittedly cranky lately (and I won’t be posting regularly for another month or so still 😦 ). Despite orca sightings and a new home, an ill-timed 30-hour trip, a massive cold, a move and an unexpectedly bad semester have all culminated in a stinking Rose. Pee-yew.

I don't smell as good as garlic though!

But I had a moment of positivity today so I thought I should report. Aside from the other small and large pleasures of the new home, I am pleased to announce that I must now go through only 2 bad intersections and all of five lights in just 20 minutes! I feel like I’ve been given the gift of time and relaxation. I love my blessed James Bay and will continue to scoff when people talk about its “inaccessibility” especially in the summer but I will admit that it makes the commute to UVic a little painful, especially for a lightweight like me. I will take 20 minutes – gladly. It still allows me some exercise, some time outside when I’m otherwise feeling chained to my desk and the joy of cruising the neighbourhood without having to ride through downtown or feeling quite as much pressure to get home fast.

Hi, I have a sugar problem.

Incapable of expressing my appreciation – I’m like a kid in a candy shop!

July 5, 2010 Posted by | Cycling, Irritated | | 4 Comments

Traffic, Aggression, Cycling and Haters

Drivers complain about drivers, pedestrians complain about drivers, drivers complain about cyclists and cyclists complain about drivers – I could go on. Complainers are always perfect and so are the recipients of the complaints.

At the risk of sounding typical, and ludicrous, can’t we all just get along? I too find myself frustrated, particularly when I’m on my bike and completely cut off by a car, my life feels a little more at risk than I’d prefer. But this post is not meant to be a complaint. It’s more of an appeal, an attempt to understand the hate. And one hater in particular.

As a driver and a cyclist, I can understand frustrations experienced by both. When driving, it often bothers me when cyclists behave as though the road is theirs, particularly darting through traffic. I’m not bothered by their self-importance so much as the sense that I’m not sure what they’re going to do. Unpredictability and erratic cycling causes accidents just like pedestrians wandering on and off the road or aggressive weaving drivers. But there’s no need to get our hate on.

Because I’m overly sensitive to drivers’ cyclist hate, I try to avoid thumbing my nose at drivers (riding through red lights, pedestrian crossings, and so forth). However, sometimes I’m a jerk: I’m running really late, I feel like it’s safer to ride through an area, it’s windy and my balance doesn’t feel awesome or I’m not paying as much attention as I should be. I admit all of that. Many cyclists are less respectful than me, many are more. Occasionally, drivers will honk, tailgate or drive around me aggressively but it’s rare. Some drivers and pedestrians seem impatient if I don’t “break the rules” and go ahead of them or avoid a complete stop (just another lesson in never making everybody happy). Sometimes a pedestrian will call out to me. What I’ve realized most recently is that it’s almost always the same guy AND he loves the f-bomb AND he lives in my neighbourhood.


  • Me: rolling stop through a clear 4-way stop. Him: “It’s a f*&^ing stop sign.”
  • Me: riding through a red light at 8am, no traffic. Him: Monster spit 2 feet in front of me on sidewalk. “You f*&^ing colour blind son of a b*(&”
  • Me: riding bike from building across street to bus stop (20 feet) with helmet in hand, dismounting on sidewalk. Him: Spit. “So we have another f%^&ing Gordon Campbell“. Me: “I don’t know what  that’s supposed to mean.” (Seriously, I don’t. Is it a reference to our [former] premier’s drunk driving charge?) Then we both wait at the bus stop. When the bus arrives he gobs again before getting on and I load my bike in fear of the man three times my size with such a penchant for anger and saliva.

Gordon Campbell ziplining an Olympics promo. This picture makes me laugh everytime. Courtesy gov.bc.ca

I have had other run-ins, or ride-bys, with this guy but apparently on those occasions I wasn’t giving him anything he could pick on so he remained dry and silent but cranky-looking. I know he smiles and laughs with others, I’ve seen evidence. The only acceptable reason I can come up with for his behaviour toward me is that he lost a child to cyclist irresponsibility.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been the come-back kid. I only noticed a few months ago that it’s always the same guy. My first ever response was yesterday, to tell him I didn’t know what the Gordon Campbell reference meant. I’m slow and emotional in these situations (read avoid confrontation at all costs) and don’t think there’s anything I can say that will illicit a response I’m interested in.

June 16, 2010 Posted by | Community, Cycling, Irritated, Wild Animals | , , , | 4 Comments

Freecycle amusement

I’ve written recently about the magic that is freecycle. My latest acquisition is, wait for it, it’s that exciting: Trivial Pursuit. I am apprentice to the Queen of the Dorks.

I love board games AND trivia, so I come by this excitement (dorkishness) naturally. When I saw a post for trivial pursuit near my new home to be I got very excited. You may ask what that looks like:

The easiest way to retrieve the item, which was going to be left in a bag outside the door of a house, would have been to drive to school and pick it up either on the way there or the way back. But it seems just plain wrong to drive to pick up an item small enough to put into a backpack or carry, especially when I could make the great Trivial Pursuit Retrieval a much better adventure if I involve a bike and a trip to yoga to make things interesting.

So, I biked to school as usual. “On the way” home I took a different route, thinking that I’d also check out how I would do the commute to my upcoming new locale. After taking a rather long, but interesting (!) path I did the necessary creep by the new homestead and then got to the home in question. Even though there was no surprise involved I took a great deal of pleasure (too much) in walking up the steps, grabbing the box out of the bag it was in (they could use that bag again!) and going back to my bike. Now, I’d brought along with me a reusable grocery bag that would allow me to hang the box off of my handlebars – there’s nothing like re-invoking that childhood danger as bag gets caught in spokes and child goes flying. But then I realized I could just barely, precariously, attach the box to my bike pannier. I got even more excited!:

*Credit: Katie Chipman

So, I rode not home, but to yoga, because it seemed like a good idea to further complicate things. I kicked the box only occasionally on my ride checking it’s status at red lights. It turned out the additional dork-knot that I tied didn’t even become necessary along the way. I think I was the only one to show up with a board game to yoga, but otherwise things went smoothly. I got home almost as pleased about the little excursion as I was about the free game that has a ridiculous number of questions referring to 1950s movies and mild American political intrigue from the Cold War era. At some point there may be new cards in the cards, but in the meantime – did you know that Cleopatra was the 1963 Joseph L. Makiewicz film that cost $28 million?

Now there’s a continuous game going on the kitchen table – who ever let stuff to do get in the way of a constant trivial pursuit match?

June 2, 2010 Posted by | Childhood Complaints, Consumption, Cycling | 3 Comments

All of these things fit together, I promise

A couple of weeks of school seems to have sucked up any energy available for even my drive-by creativity: blogging. Unlike others, I don’t actually feel as though school encourages only the non-creative aspects of my brain. I do use those for trying to understand information, imagine the other side of an issue, and coming up with unique solutions. But all that thinking drains my energy something fierce.

To combat this and the constant pain in my lower back (come on, mattress!) I’ve finally allowed myself the luxury of a 4-month yoga membership. This is insanely exciting for me; I’m not using the word luxury lightly. Yoga has always felt like a luxury to me, and given that people living on a couple of dollars a day probably don’t spend their money on fitness, I don’t think I’m too far off. But to go more than once a week feels positively luscious (and a touch guilt-inducing). And not because of the money spent. The time to focus on myself and my body and the voice of the instructor without (in theory) sorting out my day, planning dinner, making mental lists, or imagining conversations is a gift to me from me.

The upsetting part of my yoga re-uptake is that I’ve realized what a sad state of affairs my body is in. Cycling has kept me from wheezing my way up one flight of stairs but my core is weak (oh, hello back pain!) and I’m inflexible. Things that I could do before with some ease are either challenging or pushing it. Things I could barely do before are in a definite no-go zone for now. On the upside, the couple of classes I have attended seem to have already had a positive impact on my back AND I still love it even if I feel a little like I’m sweating to the oldies when everyone else is falling asleep:

May 26, 2010 Posted by | Bad TV References, Consumption, Cycling, Excessive organization | 6 Comments