Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Wheel-y Week

Now that I got the promotional blog post up, I can linger over the more personal bike-y things that have happened in my life of late.

Perhaps most exciting, O is up on two wheels. This has been a long time coming. I found him a cute little Diamondback at the ReUse Center last year and my brother fixed it up for him for his birthday. But O was impatient with the learning curve and preferred to blast around on the little bike with the training wheels. Last week, however, it came together for him and he finally got the feel for the bigger bike. By the second day, his inner hellion had come out. He was racing around pedestrians (yes, we're working on that), tearing up grass, and skidding every stop. He found a hill near E's soccer practice and took to pushing his bike up it so that he could barrel down it. He already has a trackstand better than his mama's and has been bunnyhopping along. I'm expecting curb jumping and wheelies next week. Yeesh. My mom is greatly amused by all this and in between her snorts of laughter has only managed to say "just like you were!"

On Saturday, I rode in a "Beat the Train" alleycat around Ypsilanti. It was a small affair (maybe 15 riders?) and not really a race. I knew we were in trouble when we rode up to the start and the organizer said, "I've never actually been to an alleycat but I've watched plenty on YouTube." Yikes! The idea was to follow the clues/map to five checkpoints, get a playing card at each, and then figure out who had the best poker hand. See? It was all about the hand you brought in, not how long it took you to get there. Oh yeah, and it was less than 5 miles of riding. I put more miles on riding to the coffee shop, brewery, and home. Anyway, I did the circuit with Andy and Luke and we got to all have a pleasant chitchat.

Last week I also acquired a new set of skinny tires for the black bike. I've had some on that bike before, but going from the heavy, big commuter tires I've been riding this winter to these Rubino Pros was amazing. I LOVED them. And then I injured one on only its third ride with me. A third of the way around the Milan loop (mile 22, if you care) I hit the RR tracks on Platt all wrong. The fresh, sharply cornered ties that had just been laid got ahold of my back tire. No surprise that I flatted (no biggie -- skeeters aren't out yet to eat me up!) but I was distressed to see that I'd damaged the sidewall. With reassurances from Bike Geek Supreme, I duct taped the inside and am still riding it. I like these tires bunches, but I guess I found out early on their weakness... lack of durability.

Finally, I'm loving the spread of bike-y-ness around me. Tierra the Earth Mama is an almost overnight and extremely enthusiastic convert to bike commuting and Bike Ypsi, my brother has signed on as Bike Ypsi photographer, and my neighbor has been out to ride with us a couple of times. O is on two wheels. We taught E's BFF to ride. Even W rolled out of the driveway on his bike the other day.

Bike Love.

Many of my bike freak pals and I have been riding enthusiastically since March, but May is going to be it... the month of the bike. I hope you'll come out and find your own bike love.

Bike Ypsi's Spring Ride and Festival is Sunday (May 4) in Rec Park. There are long, medium, and short rides in the morning and then food, bike related booths, bike polo, and a kid bike rodeo until 2:30pm (we'll be in the Senior Center if the weather is really bad). Cool stuff will be happening: mechanics to show you how to do basic things for your bike, an AATA bus so you can practice putting your bike on the rack without the threat of holding up a busload of impatient passengers, info on gear and nutrition, a helmet give-away, WCC fitness center passes, etc.

Every Friday in May I'll be biking to AA with anyone who wants to ride. There's been a "bike to work" initiative nationwide for years and my encounter with one of these rides in 1993, a week or two after I moved to Atlanta, helped launch me into being an urban bike commuter for the rest of the years I lived in Georgia. It is probably too much to hope that these Yspi-AA rides will have quite the same impact on any of the participants, but you never know... So, if you've thought about but hesitated to ride to AA, please come with me. We're leaving from Bombadill's: 8:00am on May 2, 9, 23, and 30; 7:15am on May 16 (since there is a big rally in downtown AA that day). Return ride is from AA City Hall, leaving at 5:15pm and ending at Haab's for free happy hour appetizers.
BTW, the image on this post is from a "Good Roads Rally" in SF in 1896: 5,000 riders showed up demanding, yep, better roads.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Say It Ain't So...

Yes, that is indeed what she said.

"No beer."

"Is that no beer for a while? A week? A month? Or no beer ever again?"

She just kept saying "no beer," and then finally relented and said, "well, at least less beer."

But I can still have my red wine. And coffee. Hmmm....

Okay, here is the story: I've had some stomach pain of late. Some of it has been rather debilitating and caused my hubby to rush home and care for me (thanks, babe!). So I toddled off to see my GP today to see if we can't figure out what is going on. We reviewed my "lifestyle," which includes coffee, red wine, and luscious, luscious BEER (but hey, I don't drink liquor and I don't smoke!). And, oh yeah, I took huge, huge doses of ibuprofen for the 8 months or so leading up to my December hip surgery. The doc put me on prilosec 2x a day for the next month (or maybe six weeks... she was a bit vague on that) and ordered some blood tests. I guess we are going to rule out some rare-in-Caucasians H-virus and pancreatic issues (and I noticed she slipped a liver test in there... she must think I'm a real lush!) and then assume that it is some sort of gastroenteritis/ulcerish type thing that just needs to heal... something that can happen with time, the prilosec, and [sniff] no beer.

But wait, again, "The wine is okay? The coffee is okay?"


"But no beer?"

"Wine has good properties"

"Trust me, beer has good properties, too"

"What is even in beer?"

Hmmmm.... I'm suspicious. Did she really just ask me what is in beer? She is obviously not a beer drinker (she seems to think all beer drinkers are bingers). And she has told me that lots of "old wisdom" on stomach issues has been debunked recently and there is no need to go on a bland diet unless something in particular causes me pain, in which case I only need to cut out that one thing. She also admitted that if I smoked, that would be the lifestyle change she would lobby for... Wait, am I losing beer because I don't have any worse habits? Is it possible that beer is no worse for this than tomatoes?

Okay, let's not get ahead of ourselves. For the short term -- at least until she calls me on Monday with the test results and my tummy has a few days of prilosec to calm it down -- I will not drink. Then we shall see. I think a little more research and maybe some conversations with beer-enthusiast physicians will be in order.

Anyone need a designated driver?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

summer camp

In looking around for summer camps for kids, a friend directed me to Anti-Oppression Camp. Oh yay! I want to go to social justice camp. Pretty please? I'll need it for creating the compound. Right?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sounds of the Jungle

Good golly. I'm drinking (very weak) coffee at Jungle Java in Ann Arbor while my children are off climbing around in the giant indoor jungle gym. Very strange. I suppose this is a lovely idea, especially for a cool, rainy Saturday afternoon at the tail end of spring break. I brought work (because the kids don't want much from me with all this play equipment and I am not allowed to chase them through the climbing structure anyway) but I find the people here way too distracting to get much done. The lighting is really weird, too, and I'm feeling seriously disoriented. I expect we will all be twitching by the time we leave.

I wonder, what is the ratio of tantrums-upon-leaving to number of child patrons at this place?

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Knew I Couldn't Sabbaticalize Forever...

Because the job change from the south to here, my tenure and sabbatical clocks were not aligned. Most people at my university go up for tenure and then (assuming they get it) they go on sabbatical. It is good. At that point in your career work on your first big research topic should be complete (or you wouldn't have gotten tenure) and you need the concentrated time a sabbatical allows to get deep into your second project. That way, when you come back from sabbbatical, you have a solid base to work from. Also, people have had a chance to forget that you exist and that you are now tenured and therefore are just the right person to serve on this that and the other committee....

But as I said, this is not how it worked for me... I got tenure and then had to hang around for another 3 years until my sabbatical came around. I was fresh (tenured) blood and way too visible, so I got pulled in lots of directions. The service demands that come with being an associate professor are enormous. As I prepared to go on sabbatical (nearly a year ago!), I resigned from everything. There was some work that it was tempting to stay connected with, but I didn't do it. I cut all ties, figuring I could start fresh and with a bit more intentionality when I go back to teaching in the fall.

But now the plans for the coming academic year are reaching a frenzied level -- everyone wants to nail things down before the end of this term. I learned two weeks ago I am to again be discipline representative for History. I'm going to be on the Curriculum Committee for the college. I'm teaching an overload in the fall (4 courses instead of 3). And I was just asked to come back and take up the directorship of the Civic Engagement Project (something I did for essentially 5 years!). Considering the state of my discipline and department, I turned down the latter, but it wasn't easy. I don't want that initiative to fail after have helped to birth it. Other opportunities to say "no" are coming... I can feel it. I'm thinking part of my coming down from the sabbatical needs to be assessing and prioritizing my service work. I've actually seen colleagues just flat out say that they will never do this, that, or the other. I'm stunned by this and more than slightly annoyed that that means the work will fall to others (like myself). But then I think, if they get to do it, maybe I can too. This would be a new concept for me, that's for sure!

Fairness vs. Sameness

A dinner table conversation turned to this topic the other night. I can't quite recall its origins... probably something to do with food quantities or bedtimes or chores but it has been funny to see that the topic is also cycling through an on-line discussion on my campus at the moment. The issue at hand there is whether or not it is "fair" to the men of the university community that there is a Women's Resource Center on campus and not a "Gender Resource Center," "Men's Resource Center," or just plain "Resource Center."* As you might imagine, there are a couple of contributors (and I literally mean 2) who got and keep the discussion rolling with insightful comments such as "all the women I know are strong" and "to have a resource center for women tells women that they are weak."

I'm on sabbatical and trying to stay out of the fray, but I have been checking in on things. It has been fun to see my colleagues -- most of whom are women's studies faculty -- answer the critics from their various disciplinary perspectives. You put a philosopher, psychologist, sociologist, and economist together -- all citing evidence -- and there are some pretty convincing arguments on the ways in which women are situationally disadvantaged by their gender (though not necessarily only their gender) and the core set of resources that might be made available to mitigate these disadvantages. Of all the comments, though, the only one that sent my brain somewhere new came from a literature professor and I thought I would share with you a link to the short story she recommended.

Maybe it is just the sponge-like brains of children, but my kids got it pretty quickly that something being fair did not mean that things had to be the same for everyone. That thinking about what is fair might better be done through looking at what people need rather than counting out the beans so that everyone has the same amount. I wonder if the critics of the WRC will be willing to try and wrap their brains around that.

*By the way, the WRC is really about more than women. In particular, much of the programming goes to support the LGBT community, those with non-conforming gender identities, community involvement, and childcare. Interestingly, that the center's scope was wider than "women" doesn't seem to have been the source of the original objection to the WRC.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Farkle Twins Visit Ikea

W and I stole away yesterday afternoon to the land of all things organizational to try and tackle a few of our kitchen storage issues. Armed with a tape measure and the dimensions of that large blank wall, we picked something out almost as soon as we made to the display rooms area upstairs. Of course, we then had to peruse the entire rest of the store to decide that, yes, indeed, that first piece should work. Shopping without sprogs was amazingly easy:

"Do you like this?"

"Eh. I do like that, though."

"Okay. How about this?"

"Nice, but let's stay focused."

"Right. Right."

"So we get this, that, and that, and then decide later if we need more?"

"Yes. Want to grab some dinner?"

The only snafu came when I went to measure the depth of some wall mounted cabinets. The metal end of the tape measure accidentally slipped a little too firmly into place behind the cabinets and could not be easily removed because some wall trim was too close. Okay, it went in, so it should come out... Well, the Farkle twins wiggled it this way and that. Slid it up the cabinet and down. Pushed on this while pulling that. Meanwhile, a few people wandered up behind us to snicker at our predicament before moving on. While we both had visions of just abandoning the tape measure to its new home in a kitchen display at Ikea, we managed to take turns with our giggly frustration enough to stick it out until W managed to spring it only seconds before we were going to slink away. Yeah. Not our finest moment in home remodeling, I'll admit.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Where did the weekend go?

Friday night included live music (Hullabaloo + BackForty) at one of my local spots with a couple of good friends -- some drinking, some dancing, some hugging... all good.

Saturday morning found me awake bright and early. Oh, esp. after closing the bar the night before, how I wish I could sleep in... When I was awake at 7:something and didn't need to be, I felt myself mighty envious of W who was snoring away (and would be for several more hours). I cleaned around the house and sent the kids out the door. One did not feel well, however, and came back. No worries -- she decided to pitch in and we woke up the yard by raking out beds and lawn, running the core aerator, seeding the problem patches, and putting down the usual organic fertilizer (mostly chicken poop). It was a good day of manual labor with plenty of sunshine to leave me feeling toasted and tired.

Dropped in at the Corner while the Freighthouse banjo fundraiser was going and saw lots of the usual suspects and had a quick beer before heading down the road to EMU. Melissa Ferrick rolled through town on Saturday evening to do a *free* show as a fund raiser for the LGBT Resource Center. The crowd pretty well filled the ballroom, but overall, it was a small crowd for someone who is sooooo cool. I love her -- "mangina" and all (sorry, inside joke for those who were there). She is goofy, loud, irreverent, and spastic in ways that totally appeal to me and I'm impressed by her ability to tell stories while tuning and then integrate those stories into her songs -- a rockingly good live show, she is. The evening also gave me a chance to catch up with a friend who has been out of town for much of the winter, though I probably stayed up too late again.

Sunday morning I finally made it back to my pre-surgery weight levels while lifting at the gym. I've been cautious, since the right hip is still weaker than the left, but I'm coming up on 4 months since the surgery and have been fairly active so I thought I'd test it out. It worked, at least for squats... I'm still hesitant on lunges, since that leaves the hip out there pretty unprotected on its own holding all my weight and then some. Was back on target for chest, triceps, biceps, and shoulders as well. Yay!

After a shower, I played with the kids a bit and was going to take a quick nap, but E decided to brush my hair... Having my hair brushed is one of those small yet great pleasures in life.... and it was just as good as a nap, I decided.

Sunday afternoon found me out with Bike Ypsi folks. A dozen riders made it out this time, including a couple of new folks. We made use of the Ford Blvd bike lanes and then headed around Ford Lake for sixteen or so miles and lots of sunshine.

I left the BY people to ride into Ann Arbor and meet up with W and the kids for Festifools. It was a significantly larger happening than last year and they created quite the party by circling up and down Main Street. W is inspired to make his own giant puppet -- for camping, music festivals, and just those odd times with the kids when one wants a 10ft tall puppet to parade up and down the street.

Another shower, pizza, and polishing off the taxes rounded out the evening. I'm a tiny bit sore (mostly from the yard work... that core aerator is heavy machine), more than a little bit sun/wind-kissed, and ready for a good long sleep.