Thursday, March 20, 2008

Men and Their Tools

I can't describe to you why it made me so happy, but I bought my first tool yesterday to work on my bike. It's a cable puller and it allows me to adjust the tension of the shifting cables. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, my cables were giving me problems. If the tension on the cable is too loose, then when you shift into a lower gear (a bigger chain wheel), the chain wont go. But if the cable it too tight, then it may not allow you to shift down into a higher gear. So right now, I'm getting my hands dirty and trying to find that perfect cable tension. Which leads me to a great story!

I wrote this for the Seattle P-I. It may or may not be published, but I tried. Here it is:

"The Coolness of Firefighters"

It's amazing how the actions of one can affect your feelings towards entire groups of people.

Today I was affected.

Sitting on a small, square patch of grass in front of the fire station on 50th and 11th, I set to work on my road bike; it's been giving me some troubles so I decided right then and there to work on it. As I tinkered away on my knees with my tools beside me, I noticed a firetruck come to a stop at the intersection nearby. Eventually the light flicked to green and the truck rolled slowly past to enter the station. As it passed me, I noticed one of the men look at me and I thought I saw him nod. It brought a smile to my face.

I returned my attention to my needy bicycle but before to long I was interrupted. "Do you have all the tools you need?" I heard a voice say, I looked up to see a one of the firemen standing beside me. "I do have everything I need" I said with a smile, but I almost wish I didn't so that I could accept his generosity! That fireman made my day with one simple question, and he made me proud of all our cities firemen at the same time. I just wanted him to know that I'm thankful for his kindness.


It was hastily written late last night as I see now, though I feel that a lot of my writing comes across that way, especially on blogger, as I rarely take the time to revise and edit.

Anyway, I'm happy to have my new tool. I'm hoping it will be the first in collection of many. There's something very gratifying about getting your hands dirty and working on your own bike. I appreciate Devin putting it together for me, but I hope now that he'll never have to touch it again. I'd like to try and do everything myself.

The other things of note in my life are the Bristol essay and my computer screen. I jumped through the hoops that Bristol University held up for me, and I got to turn in my new essay. I don't know how much detail I spent on it before, but basically the situation was complicated, I got a bad grade, I asked to redo it and they let me. Now it's over, sent in, and all I have to do is focus on the next test for Bristol which is the 26th. Boo.

As for my computer screen. Well, it broke. I don't know how or when exactly. I do know that it was in my backpack (like it had been for my entire trip through Europe) and that it happened in between downtown and home. Both Dan and I have been on the phone with the HP people trying to go through the process of getting it fixed. They told me that I didn't have a warrenty, so I checked with Mom and she said we had a three year agreement. I called back, and gave them the warranty numbers she gave me, but there was no record of it. They tried to get me to pay 700 bucks for it, and I told them I'd call them back. After talking to Dan, he got on the phone and spent God knows how much longer with another service representative before they finally acknowledged out warranty. Now all we need to do is send it in! HA!

Now I should go. It's raining in Seattle but I think I'm going to get wet and ride to the U District. I need to print some stuff off! Oh and anyone who reads this, will you send out good thoughts or prayers for my Mother? She's been sick for far too long now and we all want to see her get better!


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Urges are needed.

Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm talking about the urge to write, something I've not had in a long while. To save you the time of reading every little detail of my life, what I'm going to do is basically make this blog like a newspaper; It's going to have different sections and articles. This will help me stay focused and organized, and it will help you so you can pick and chose whatever is interesting for you! -- Editor and Chief

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

A Dream Realized in Greenwood
I've moved! Yes I am officially living in Seattle. I live in a house with three other Gentlemen, one of whom is my very best friend Devin Short.

My house is super sweet. It's a two story house, 4 bedrooms upstairs, 2 full bathrooms, a large kitchen, a huge living room, a bike room, and a place to park my car. Not to mention I'm next door to my best friend. Plus, the location is great. Greenwood is a really nice area. I'm right next to a park, a natural food grocery store, a blockbuster, and some great coffee shops! Greenwood is fairly removed from the University of Washington, but I feel it's more of an opportunity than a disadvantage.

The thing is, it's a half and hour bike ride to school one way. So I'm getting an hour of cardio just getting to school. If I do any exercise on top of that, I should be fit in no time! Not only does the distance appeal to my obsession with fitness, it also caters to my love of scenery. I definitely do not ever have to take the same route twice to school (even though I do it all the time). However, there are a few different route that I take. The most used one is going down Phinney Ridge past the Zoo, then following 50th to the U District. The other favorite is going down 77th to Greenlake, and taking Aurora into the U District from the North. And finally, I can go down Fremont Ave to the Burke-Gelman trail and come into campus from the South. I just love having the options!

As for my roommates, they couldn't be more chill. Craig is a very athletic guy who likes biking, camping, and hiking. He used to work at REI but quit and now works the night shift at QFC as the assistance manager. We don't see a great deal of him, but whenever we do it's always fun. He sleeps during the day and arouses a bit before he goes to work at 10pm. Then we see him in the mornings just after he gets off. Justin is great. He's a video game tester for Microsoft. He brought with him an absolutely mammoth TV to which is hooked an Xbox 360 (also courtesy of him). He's offered up all his stuff for my use, which is great, and to him I returned the favor when I brought my epic amount of movies. Then there is Devin. I can't sum up Devin like that, but if I were to try it would be something like, "Devin is awesome. He is brilliant for one; he's in the honours physics at the University of Washington and wants to study that for the rest of his life. He is also an avid bicyclist, but with an interesting twist. He rides a fixed gear bike, aka "fixie", and the only word I can use to describe his passion, or the bike he rides, is intense. Also possibly inspiring. Eventually he wants to start racing his fixie on the weekends, which I'm selfishly encouraging because I just want to see him race that thing!

Finally, I'd say that I think my room reflects the nature of travelers, i.e. I don't have much stuff. As of this moment, I have a lamp and a bed. My clothes are in my closet, and there are various books and assortments of other useful things lying about my floor, but for the most part it's empty.

Bristol Uni to UW a Complicated Transfer
I've been talking with advisers about transferring Bristol grades to UW grades. It's been quite a process getting it all straightened out, but everything is almost sorted. The only things that I have left to do is write a 3000 word essay for my old Sociology course as well as take a 3 hour test for Philosophy. These are due on the 18th and the 26th, so that'll be keeping me busy.

The Return to Frosh; Introductory Courses for Spring Quarter
That mystically stressful time called "Registration" came and went this year with a surprising lack of stress. I've signed up for all my courses and I happened to do so before the clock ever struck six in the morning (which was the actual start time for registration). I logged onto my UW account early and picked all my courses. I clicked the submit button with about five minutes left to go and to my surprise it went through! So now I'm signed up for Com 201, Soc 270, and Span 103.

99' Ford Ranger in Disrepair; Dealership to Blame
My Truck, my beautiful black 99' Ford Ranger has fallen severely ill and is currently undergoing an excruciatingly long operation as a result.

The story goes as follows. I was on the the journey back to Whidbey to pick up some more things for my new room in Seattle. I parked in the waiting area for the Ferry, shut off my truck, and waited to board. The time finally came to board and so I turned on the truck and shifted into drive. I hit the gas and nothing happened. I tried again, nothing. With people behind me waiting, the pressure was on, so I shifted down into second and luckily that got me moving. I drove like that onto the ferry, and passed it off as a fluke, a one time ordeal.

Only it wasn't.

It did the same thing when I tried to get off the ferry. So I called my dad, told him the problem, and he and I did a couple of things to try and locate the problem. However, the solution was beyond our skills. Luckily, I figured out that while I couldn't shift into drive directly, I could shift from second to drive, and so I did. I made it home safe but with a heavy heart knowing that this could be something serious. The next day we took her into the shop and the results were... unwelcome.

The mechanic we worked with this time was a local Coupeville man; a real straight shooter. He took a look at it and assured us that it was indeed the transmission which was the problem, and that it was completely gone. Continuing on with infuriating facts, he told us that in his professional opinion, the transmission had never been worked on, in spite of the fact that we had taken it to the Ford Dealer to have the transmission serviced. They lied to us and we paid them. The worst part of it is, that dealer is now out of business and there is nothing to be done about it.

So my truck is in the shop in Coupeville, it's transmission is being replaced, and it's not meant to be back in my company until Wednesday at the earliest. That's actually a very small problem for me. I'm in no need to have it, it's just nice to have the truck around if I did need it for some reason. I fully intend on riding my bike everywhere anyway. I'm just more worried about the state of my truck than my ability to drive it. I hope it'll be ok.


The Duchess; A Crimson Colored Cycle (Feature Article)

My bike is a glorious machine. Unfortunately the cable that allows me to upload photos has been lost to the same nefarious abyss that so often claim my socks. So I've ordered a new one and we'll just have to wait a bit longer to debut my bike on the World Wide Web. However I can describe it to you! And so I shall.

It started with a frame.

The frame was ordered by Devin on my parents buck and inadvertently, the future of my transportation was inextricably set in stone; I now prefer no other mode of travel than my bike. The frame happens to be about the same crimson colour that represents Bristol University. The frame is made by the company "Salsa", the model is "La Raza", and the colour is "Vino Rojo". It is a very sexy frame.

Devin quickly set to work on completing it. Some time ago, Devin created a beautiful bike for himself, though his is called a "Fixie". Take a look, it's hot. However, in creating his long term love affair, he removed a number of regular road bike components; components that are now on my bike.

My bike is essentially his old bike, the exceptions being the frame, the saddle, the pedals, and handlebars. Speaking of handlebars, we wrapped them in a red colour to match the frame. It's sexy. Enough said.

With any new bike and new build, there are some kinks to work out. When we took it to the shop to have it's brake and shifting lines installed, they were meant to service it to make sure it shifted properly on the bike stand. Well, if it did shift nicely on the stand, it sure doesn't shift nicely under use. Devin and I have had some constant problems trying to get it to shift into third fear, and shifting on the rear cogs can also be difficult. Needless to say, Devin and I are going to call up the place and see if they'll check it out again free of charge.

There is also some mysterious squeaking from the front tire, I think due to the brake pad rubbing ever so slightly on the rim of the wheel. There can also be a sort of ratchety sound coming from the chain wheel area. I think the derailer (the thing that shifts your chain) is also just touching the chain sometimes. To sum up, the thing still need some work, but when you're in a committed relationship like we are, you take care of each other, you're patient, and you get through the rough patches by remembering the good rides so far, and dreaming of the smoother rides in the future.

Continuing on with that relationship thought. The bike and I are often, and for many hours in the day, intimately connected. Now, at first I was calling this bike "The Duke"; I really like the honorific title and I felt the bike was very honorable, dependable, and yet graceful. Yes, a title of nobility seemed a perfect fit. However, in light of the aforementioned closeness with the bike, it seemed rather odd for me (possible not so for others) to be spending so much time, and in such close proximity, with "The Duke". Realizing that I would much rather have such a connection with a woman, I unhesitatingly changed it's title to "The Duchess". And while I would never disgrace her by stooping so low as to make a petty sexual joke such as "I'm going to ride the Duchess", it's there if I ever felt the urge, and it wouldn't be as awkward as "I'm going to ride the Duke!"

To finish up this article, I'll say that this bike has reinvigorated my thirst for exercise, and introduced me to yet another brilliant facet of life. I'm forever hooked on biking. I now dream of getting the proper tools to maintenance it myself. I'd like to get a messenger bag so that my bag doesn't sway from side to side when I ride. I was considering joining the bike club at the UW so hopefully I could pick up some of those good tips and maintenance skills. I've already bought "Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance" to give me a nice intro to servicing my bike, and I also dream of one day building a bike of my own. That'll be a great day.

All in all, I'm extremely happy with this bike and she and I will go on outstanding rides to and from the UW every day.

Exercise, A Summary
Other than the bike, my forms of exercise are pretty varied. To start off, I've got the correct sticker now on my UW ID card so I can get into the IMA. The IMA is the Intramural Activities Building. It contains all sorts of work out equipment such as bikes, ellipticals, treadmills, and free weights. It's got rooms for yoga, palates, ballet, dance classes, etc. It's got indoor basketball courts, squash courts, racket ball courts, an indoor track, a pool, and an indoor climbing centre. This place was my home away from home last year, and I intend to make it that way again by going there at the end of every school day.

I'm also still slack lining. I actually went today
but I can't say it was an especially gratifying session because I'm testing out a new park down the street. The park has lots of trees but it's finding the right trees. Today I chose the wrong trees. I'll try another pair another time.

Finally, there's walking. I do it much more when I'm in Seattle than anywhere else. Add to the fact that campus is so huge, I'm doing quite a bit of walking. All of this exercise is meant to get me back in shape; I gained a few on my travels and I want them gone as soon as possible! That's all there is too it.

The Birthday Cometh
The big 21 is finally on the horizon and I'm very excited about it. Though to be honest, there is still so much to do now
that I've given it little thought. I know that it's on a Friday so that's a positive; the entire weekend is at my disposal. I'm thinking a pub crawl on Friday and something with my brother Jacob on Saturday. Sunday is God's day, it is a day of rest, and so I shall recover from my self inflicted pains and possibly go home to visit my parents.

I, like most people, can always come up with things I want. But what I really want this year are functional things. Things that will make the adjustment to adulthood easier, things that will help me stay organized, things that are practical and durable. I'm trying to be more responsible and there are some things that help with that. For example: I've been keeping all my receipts and I'm trying to budget my spending. I've also installed budgeting software on my computer. Things to help maintain my finances would be something like a filing cabinet with some blank folders. That way I can have a folder for receipts, another for business cards, etc. Other things might be tools to work on my bike with, a messenger bag, or some cuddling. Cuddling is a very necessary thing mind you.

The Music Continues Under Criticism
It's all in the title. I've been writing and playing it for as many people as I can, but I've been feeling a bit beaten down, or almost that people are disappointed in me. I asked some of my close friends for some constructive criticism, and they gave it, which surprisingly hurt. One told me I use the same words for my songs, and the other about my voice. The voice one really was a positive thing, she gave me tips on breathing and posture, things I needed. But it's hard to just change. I thought I'd been doing the things she said. Practice makes better I suppose. It's just frustrating to be trying to hard and then to have others find so much criticism. I really am trying, and it's not like I've taken voice lessons, guitar lessons, or song writing classes. I'm winging it here people, and I'm going to continue to do so! I just hope it'll be more appreciated, or perhaps it is and I'm just not feeling the love. It's really not a big deal I guess.

On the bright side, I procured a small amp from my sister, and her old electric guitar. I also now have a mic stand, a mic, and the proper chords to put them into said amp. I'd like to start recording onto my computer again, but I left all that stuff at home. Soon though, soon. I am also trying to finish the songs I've started. I feel like I've made promising strides on one at least and I'm really excited to finish it. I want to get a few more under my belt then start the open mic nights here in Seattle!

A Splendid Reunion With A Bittersweet Aftertaste
It's been great to see my friends and family again. I've gotten to spend a good amount of time with my folks, gone on various dinners and outings, as well as just some relaxation time together.
I even got to have Christmas in February! That was a lot of fun, opening presents, and having hot coffee. I've also been scurrying around trying to say hello to all my friends. It's been so much fun but a little exhausting and I've still not seen all of them.

The only bitterness about this reunion is knowing that I had to leave some very good people to make it happen. When I left the first time, I always knew I was coming back, so it wasn't as hard to leave, but who knows when I'll be in Bristol again! That's what's so hard about the situation. Keeping in contact via Facebook, email, and snail mail is one thing, but actually seeing people, embracing with them, hearing their voices, those things are inexplicably better then just words on a page. I miss them every day, but at the same time I'm enjoying myself every day rebuilding those ever so patient friendships here in Seattle!


There's so much left unsaid from my wander across Europe. For some reason, I don't want to talk about it any more. I've told an innumerable amount of people a disgraceful summation of my five months abroad. I don't know when I'll actually write those last remaining entries, but hopefully soon.

However, I do still miss my Queens Roaders terribly. I see pictures and stalk them on Facebook but it's just not the same. I want to hug them, and see there smiles in person. I want to laugh with them, and drink with them, and watch movies with them. If there are any of you who read this, I MISS YOU!

Student Seeks Job or Sugar Momma
I'm looking for a job. Preferably one within a 45 minute bike ride from Greenwood. I'd really like to be a server and a classy and high volume restaurant. I don't want the place to be so ritzy that not a lot of people go there, but I don't want it to be dirt cheap either. I'm thinking like the Ram steakhouse and brewery, or this seafood place called The BluWater Bistro. Hopefully I can get an in there.

I've been told by a number of different people that they think I'd be a good waiter. I do too! I really get on well with most people, and I have a lot of fun with whatever I'm doing, so I think it could be a blast. Plus I need the money. I'm also keen on the tips, and I'm thinking that I'd be able to win over the middle aged moms who have sons or daughters about my age. "Oh you remind me of my son" or "I think my daughter would like you!" then followed by a good sized tip would be splendid, or maybe a date with the daughter. Ha! But seriously, I'm on the lookout. My resume is finished and I just need to start taking them around!