Sunday, July 23, 2006

It's hot

Like many other places in the country, and the northern hemisphere, it has been HOT here. From the Pasadena Star-News:
[Yesterday] Pasadena had a record high of 109 degrees, 11 degrees more than the previous high set in 1988, said Dave Bruno, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"We've been well above normal since the middle of June," he said. "Persistently, every day is several degrees above normal."
And it's not cooling down much at night, which is not usual for this part of California. Fortunately, it's predicted to cool down a little this week.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Flat tire

Yesterday I got my first flat tire since I started commuting by bicycle. I was more than half-way to work in the morning when my rear tire picked up two-inch self-starting bolt. I heard a metal on metal sound and then hissing.

I pulled over onto the nice, wide sidewalk, complete with a low wall convenient for propping up the bike and sitting on. I removed the tire from the bike and then, reading the instructions on the spare tube package, removed the tire using tire levers and tube from the rim.

I was able to put the new tube in and snap the tire back onto the rim. But then my micro pump let me down. I could not get nearly enough air into the tube. So I put the tire back onto the bike and started walking it while also carrying my pannier.

A few blocks away, I found a working pay phone outside a liquor store and called a taxi. I didn't want to risk my rim and tire, plus taking more time, to walk quite a few more blocks to a gas station with an air compressor.

The taxi driver put my bike in the trunk and took me to work. By the time I arrived, including showering, I was only 45 minutes late and was at my desk at the time most people get to work anyway.

At lunch, I took the tire off the bike again and got a ride to a nearby gas station to pump it up. Then I had to get the tire back on the bike, in my work clothes. Now the inflated tire didn't fit between the two rear brake pads, so, not knowing (or having forgotten) the handy way to uncouple the brakes, I unscrewed one of the pads, fit the tire back on the hub with the help of one of the facilities men who happened to be nearby, and put the brake pad back on.

I rode pretty carefully going home later that afternoon (my tire was low and I wasn't 100% confident I had put everything back just right). I stopped by my bike store to buy another spare tub and a larger pump. The sales guy checked that I had put the tire on properly, tightened up the brake pad, and showed me how to uncouple the brakes to fit the tire on.

So my first experience with changing a flat by myself wasn't too traumatic. It wasn't raining or dark or too hot. I also tested the spare parts and tools I carry with me. Besides needing a larger pump, I learned I should carry latex gloves. My fingernails are still engrimed with grease from working with the chain.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bike commuting all week

This was the first week I commuted to and from work for five days straight. Last week I had a break for 4th of July.

It is pretty tiring and doesn't leave me with a whole lot of energy at the end of the day to do much, especially anything that takes much thought (like writing here). Plus there have been higher than usual temperatures this week.

I have had to be more disciplined because if I'm late or don't have my riding stuff together, I can't just hop in the car anymore.

I have enjoyed the riding, though, and hope to get a bit more descriptive when I'm not so tired!

P.S. If you live in the Los Angeles area, you are invited to join Path to Freedom and my church for a screening of this summer's OTHER global warming film, The Great Warming, on Sunday, August 13, 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm, at Messiah Lutheran Church/Iglesia Luterana Mesías in Pasadena. A vegetarian, local food potluck will be served before the film. For more information and to make a reservation, go here.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Observing the Sabbath is saving my life now. For the first time in my life, I can rest without leaving home. With sundown on the Sabbath, I stop seeing the dust balls, the bills, and the laundry. They are still there, but they lose their power over me. One day each week I live as if all my work were done. I live as if the kingdom has come, and when I do the kingdom comes, for one day at least. Now, when I know the Sabbath is near, I can feel the anticipation bubbling up inside of me. Sabbath is no longer a good idea or even a spiritual discipline for me. It is my regular date with the Divine Presence that enlivens both body and soul.
From an excerpt of Barbara Brown Taylor's book Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith. Via an interview on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.
Morning errands

This morning I rode down to my local bicycle shop to get pedals to which I could attach Power Grips as recommended by Kent Peterson. The shop didn't have any pedals without toe clips and straps, so I bought a set with them that I can remove if I get the Power Grips.

Already I think my pedaling feels more efficient, because my legs (knees) aren't having to work as hard to keep my feet on the pedals. I also picked up a cycling cap to wear under my helmet to try keep more sun off my face.

Then I rode over to the Farmers' Market and bought potatoes, a melon, peaches, and goats' milk soap.

On my way home I stopped by a couple garage sales. The first one had a large steel desk and chair. I was tempted because I appreciate how well made those old desks are, but my one bedroom duplex is too small. (The man was selling it because he had moved from Texas, "where the houses are bigger," to a smaller Pasadena house.)

At the second house, I found an old oak desk chair (no arms). I went ahead and purchased it because it is very comfortable and sturdy, and it will replace my cheapo, second-hand, plastic and synthetic fabric office chair.

I also figured I could transport it on my bicycle. I removed the bag from under the seat that holds my extra tube and tools and put it with the locks that I usually strap onto my rack and the rear light in my pannier with the vegetables and fruit.

Then I turned the chair upside down and rested the seat on the rack with the help of someone at the sale. I strapped it down with bungie cords. As I gingerly rode off, my foot hit the back of the chair. So I had to reposition and re-strap the chair. Then I was able to ride slowly, perched on the end of my bike seat between two of chair foot rests (fortunately I was wearing my padded shorts!), and holding one of the foot rests with my left hand to stabilize the chair. I rode on residential roads, used my low gears, and made it home (uphill most of the way, of course) with no problems. A great sense of accomplishment.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Map tool

Last October I was wishing online map/route sites allowed one to enter routes in order to calculate mileage.

Well, I've discovered one that does: Gmaps Pedometer (via Letter from Hen Waller). Once I figured out how to use it—I recommend reading the Usage Instructions—I plotted my bike routes to and from work. They come out at almost exactly 11 miles each. So that's 22 miles a day. If I'm able to ride to work five days a week, that will be over 100 miles per week, not counting weekends.

We'll see how it goes....

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Thoughts while sorting stuff

It's just after noon on U.S. Independence Day. I'm pleased with the earlier morning's accomplishments in the backyard. I also cleaned my two ceiling fans and started them up. I thought the one in the bedroom was broken, but the chain just gets stuck. So I have to climb on a step-stool and pull the chain right next to the post, trying not to de-knuckle myself when the fan is going.

Now I'm sitting at my desk continuing to go through papers. It's bearable in here because of the ceiling fan. The portable fan/heater just wasn't powerful enough for this heat.

So as I sit sorting stuff, I'm jotting down some of my random thoughts.

Fans are much superior to air conditioning. Anaïs linked to a two-part article about air-conditioning and its impact. I am happy to have grown up in Africa without the "benefit" of air-conditioning. Shade trees; buildings with grass roofs; windows that actually opened; taking it easy at the hottest part of the day (at school, we had rest hour at 1:00 pm; at the hospital, lunch "hour" was from 1:00 to 3:00); wearing simple, non-constricting clothes; going barefoot or wearing sandals; fans; going swimming; not being afraid of getting sweaty.

Our house was a metal pre-fabricated building, so it could get HOT. As the day heated up, the metal roof would expand and sound like something hit it.

The hottest I remember being was riding with my grandfather in the back of our non-air-conditioned pickup truck with the canopy on and the windows closed because of tsetse fly while driving Kafue Game Park. I was wearing one of those 1970s baby doll shirts and used the ample material to wipe the sweat pouring off my face.

Here in So. Cal., the older homes were often built with screened sleeping porches to take advantage of the cooler evenings. I have heard stories of people living in Sudan, where it did not cool down at night, soaking their sheets in water and wrapping themselves in the wet sheets to cool off enough to sleep.

I've just thought of a way to file all the church bulletins I keep because of the art work and photographs on the covers: I'll file them in order of the Bible verse that is printed on them.

As I sort out notes from the Adult Forum I lead at church, re-file class notes from seminary and Ph.D. studies, and put away commentaries and theology books, I wonder what to DO with all that. Are the reasons I didn't finish my Ph.D. program still "in effect"? Or I have changed inside and maybe could re-tackle such a project? Or is it just too intense, too all-involving? Do I want to do too many other things to concentrate my time and money on finishing?

I've enjoyed the Adult Forum—looking at different subjects; getting people to discuss and tell stories; receiving lots of positive feedback and appreciation; finding the connections amongst the texts, other Lutheran publications, and current issues and events—but it's certainly not Ph.D. studies.

Sunday afternoon I took an un-air-conditioned bus to downtown Pasadena to see Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth. I can't say I did not appreciate the air-conditioned movie theatre, however.

I also popped into air-conditioned Vroman's and bought some books, including Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon. I learned of the book via a link on Idleworm. I first read the author when I was on holiday in Washington state and checked out his book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades from the city library. (By the way, Solomon only recommends the fourth and fifth editions of his Cascades book.)

Solomon takes issue with some of the intensive gardening practices promoted by, for example, Jeavons. In my most certainly inexpert, inexperienced opinion, probably much depends on the amount of land available and the circumstances under which one is attempting to grow vegetables.

I've enjoyed reading through the book, including while waiting at the bus stop after having had just missed the previous bus. Solomon has lived an interesting life. I also learned that Solomon established the online Soil and Health Library, which has many classic agricultural books in digital form.