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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August update

"The limits of excess are governed by one's ability to surpass expectations."

- Me, just now.

I'm pretty sure that's plagiarism, but Google won't reveal to me the original thinker who came up with it, so I'm going to use it and hope for the best.  I've been reading, and riding, and baking bread, as usual without a lot of surprises.  There was a decent couple loaves of bread using ground steel cut oats and cranberries, there were a few decent rides on Minnesota Nice Ride bicycles and I finally read The Stand by Stephen King.

I know, I'm really undershooting this.


I did just get out and ride a couple of routes I had been thinking about for awhile - cycling to Marine On St. Croix and back from St. Paul was a solid seventy miles, riding out to Lake Minnetonka and back, (including a new trail bridge on the Luce Line) has been a reliable fifty miles, (even though one particular stop light reminds me of a family portrait where everybody has to stand and wait until the moment is right, and then do it over because somebody heard a mouse fart or something), I rode through West Saint Paul and got through a couple of challenging climbs without too much trouble...

...a lot of these rides are probably daily or weekly routes for some of the areas more competent cyclists, for me, between trying to stay employed and trying to keep my feet on the ground, they are something to look forward to.

The thing I do not look forward to is getting into trouble.  Be it other cyclists not appreciating my attitude, local citizens charging me with disrespectful behavior or those close to me saying I am flippant and narcissistic, I guess a lot of it seems redundant and perfunctory.  Until I get pulled over by a police officer, while riding a bike, for going through a red light.  Or pulled over by a parks and recreation officer for riding through a closed trail section.  I don't know what to say about it, other than this is not the platform for those legalities.  I would welcome open and relevant discourse from a reader who felt disconcerted after reading this, then meeting me, and finding that I am not who they thought I would be.

I get frustrated.  I get angry.  I get downright mean sometimes.  Believe it or not, I am not only my own worst critic, I am my own worst enemy.  Shaquile O'Neal says having the right attitude is the only thing an athlete can completely control, and I guess if you can shatter backboards you have a valid point.  He wasn't much for the free throws though, was he.

Here's my latest Goodreads review, on a collection of short stories by Ian McEwan.

First Love, Last RitesFirst Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Last Day of Summer is pretty magnificent.  There is a lot of Flannery O'Connor in it, but there is also a tension that is brought out throughout the narrative that seems to reside in the story itself.  Although it is a tragedy, it reads like a triumphant lesson in love.

Cocker at the Theater is the other story that really got my attention.  Very short, very funny and still a bit bawdy.  The other stories in this collection, (besides Last Day of Summer) had more than their fair share of reproductive body parts in reference and function, yet this one was the only one that caught a play within a play, and set the quality of lasciviousness as humorous and just a little bit of harmless fun.  Something to be tolerated and forgotten, rather than lauded, dramatized and sensationalized.

So, two of these stories really impressed me, and yeah, I know, it's Ian Mcewan and who the hell am I, but that's what I'm going with. 

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Minnesota River Bottoms

                    Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRide

Windy day yesterday for bike riding, the mud along the Minnesota River corridor is still very fresh, deep and akin to quick set cement.  I hit one nasty patch that stopped my wheels and required about fifty feet of pushing the bike, pulling mud out of the brake calipers, pushing the bike, pulling mud out of the brake calipers, and so on and so forth. 

Otherwise, a pretty decent ride.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

*Crickets Chirping*

I haven't written any blog posts here for awhile, I have been busy adding to a series of daily iPhone photos to my Flickr site, updating at Twitter, riding my bike and recording the routes with my Garmin 210 GPS, then uploading that data to MapMyRide, Strava and Garmin Connects...among other things, (reading, baking and still struggling with my drivetrain).

You might think it would be easy to sum up in a few hundred words a few blog posts to pass the days with, a favorite bike ride from last year, a particularly egregious set of circumstances precipitating an epiphany of some kind while riding, a typo in a novel that changed my opinion of that particular writer, (paging Harry Tuttle), even a few quick pictures of any bread I have successfully baked recently.

Instead, I come to this, the 81 digits of sudoku that have been directing my time for hours on end, every day, for years. I think I have not shared adequately, the amount of effort these things pull out of me, and so, I will open the vault and share a small set of photos, previously shared on Twitter with the hashtag, 30 Days of Sudoku.

That's all I got.
30 Days of Sudoku, November 2013.  Photo by Michael McKinney
30 Days of Sudoku, December 2013.  Photo by Michael McKinney.
30 Days of Sudoku, January 2014.  Photo by Michael McKinney.
30 Days of Sudoku, February 2014.  Photo by Michael McKinney.
30 Days of Sudoku, March 2014.  Photo by Michael McKinney.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge

This is a list of the books I read in 2013, including ratings, reviews and tags.  The reading Challenge is a way of keeping track of the number of books a Goodreads member has read over the course of a year.  I have participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, though this is the first time I have posted a link on my Blog about it.

Thanks for reading!

2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge

Michael's bookshelf: 2013-reading-challenge

Spirit Level
4 of 5 stars
tagged: 2013-reading-challenge
Memoirs of a Geisha
0 of 5 stars
tagged: 2013-reading-challenge
The Marriage Plot
4 of 5 stars
Without using the cliche terminology of knee jerk sensationalistic armchair psychiatry hobbyists who learned their trade watching daytime television, Eugenides invites the reader into a spin cycle of co-dependency and mental illness. Fi...
tagged: 2013-reading-challenge
Geek Love
3 of 5 stars
tagged: 2013-reading-challenge
Out Stealing Horses
0 of 5 stars
tagged: 2013-reading-challenge

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Tidings

  1. Adult Pi Patel: So which story do you prefer?
  2. Writer: The one with the tiger. That's the better story.
  3. Adult Pi Patel: Thank you. And so it goes with God.
  4. Writer: It's an amazing story.
  5. - The Life of Pi

Here in the Midwest, enough snow has fallen at this point, the ski trails will likely be skiable through February, barring any immoderate temperature increases, rain fall and unseasonable melt-off.  I have been out nordic skiing only once since the December third snowfall and the cold snap that followed it, (seven or eight days in a ten day stretch with single digit highs) and I have been using my free time lately working on Christmas - now that it's passed, it seems logical to discourse a little about it, but I don't have much to say.

It was fantastic.

I have on some level determined that the Frank Capra movie It's A Wonderful Life is a prescient adaptation of religious doctrine, brought into play as a causative agent to prevent one George Bailey, (Jimmy Stewart) from ever actually attempting to throw himself from that precipitous bridge in the middle of winter.  We the audience watch for seventeen minutes as his guardian angel Clarence Odbody, (Henry Travers), reassures George of his significance and relevance to those people he values, but George's decision likely lasted a fraction of a second longer than his initial impulse.

But then I get all woozy over Donna Reed and I reckon it's just a long winded ad for those trendy eyeglasses all the hipster kids wear these days...In other news, I made a rug out of old climbing rope for one of my Christmas gift recipients, and I borrowed some ideas from this blog here -

Sterling and Bluewater 10.5 mm dynamic.  Photo by Michael McKinney.

My version turned out pretty well, and I was happy to have followed the website's suggestion to use Caulking and a secure base of duct tape before completing the project.  

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dig in and growl.

Photo by Michael McKinney

Photo by Michael McKinney

Photo by Michael McKinney

Photo by Michael McKinney

Photo by Michael McKinney

Photo by Michael McKinney

Photo by Michael McKinney

Photo by Michael McKinney
"...and every time you drive that ski forward in the track, you launch yourself out onto it, gliding until you compress your weight down on that kick zone, push that ski flat and kick out onto the next ski, driving that one parallel and gliding until you compress and kick that tiger claws, gripping into the snow and pulling you down the track...just think of tigers claws...gripping...kicking..."
- Jake Moody

Imagine a math teacher, standing in front of a ski team, raking his fingers through the air, climbing an invisible ladder to describe the physical act of compressing a Petex ski on snow and ice, utilizing a special soft wax for grip, and creating forward propulsion out of that glide, compression and kick - if you do it wrong, you slip, fall down and no matter how many times you re-wax those plastic bases, your ski will always be too slippery to gain any traction. 

I think about that speech every year when the snow and ice become omnipresent - a person can not get through their day without at least once slowing their gait, gingerly weighting their steps and re-balancing their progression on a sidewalk, a driveway or a parking lot.  On a bicycle, it is dangerous to whisk over those patches on road tires.  I've used cyclocross tires the past couple of years, riding occasionally through the winter, but always dreading the next patch of hard packed snow and ice, or just glare ice, waiting for my knobby tires.

Suomi Tyres are made in Finland, and I bought a pair with my Felt F75X, back in January of this year.  They work.  They work so well I'd like to gush about them.  Done...they're just that effective.

I completed another pottery course, and held my first official showing, with fantastic sales to friends and family - for Thanksgiving, I made some bread and tried making Belgian brownies, which had a lot of flour and were too long in the oven...they wound up closer to a bitter truffle than a scrumptious brownie,  Oh well. 

I am currently reading A Civil Action, about a TCE water contamination case in Woburn, MA, made into a movie starring John Travolta.  Lots of legal proceedings, broke lawyers driving Porsches with multiple credit card debts, bankruptcies and Leukemia. 

I did capture a few decent pictures the past week, and posted them on a couple social media feeds.  I hope not having them "daisy chained" is less frustrating for anybody interested in reading this blog and seeing the photos as dealing with another hacked account would be for me. 

Tight lines, Rubber side down, Ciao, Take care, Peace love and happiness, happy holidays.

(Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kinetic Linkage

I bought a Garmin Forerunner 210 in July, and have been making a consistent effort to record and track my rides on Garmin's website, Strava and MapMyRide for the past three or four months.  I selected Friday's ride into Minneapolis, a Thirty-Three mile ride along the Greenway, Cedar Trail and River Road then back to St. Paul.  There was a decent southern wind and rollerskiers were out in abundance. 
The GarminConnect, Strava and MapMyRide blog widgets allow me to post a coded link with a map and some information about the ride, as I have done here, but I'd rather be out riding.  The blog widgets will indubitably be garbled and messy, impossible to discern from somebody else's information and basically a waste of time. 
When I purchased my Felt F75X, I also bought a pair of studded winter tires from Finland.  Bring on the cold.

                    Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRide

Footnote - this is a fantastic read.

It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two WheelsIt's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels by Robert Penn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can you say about a guy from Wales who rode around the world because an Irish woman inspired him?  foolish?  Naive?  Soft hearted sentimentalist? I am sure somebody has already had their say about Robert Penn's private devices, his proclamatory penchant for his own garage, his mountainous ascents, the people he hob knobs with, his own rough scrapes flying down nepalese gravel all sounds so free spirited and liberalizing a reader might be sidled with grief for their own lack of experience. 
As a journalist approaches a story though, Penn forgoes his own (admittedly infrequent, compared to an average Strava user's twitter feed) philandering, and adopts a humble, awed perspective, as if he were holding the museum curators hand after wandering into the lecture hall after closing time.  As a cyclist and as a journalist, he wants to know the long history of each component: the chain, the seat, the handlebars, the derailleur, the frame and does each piece of engineering the justice it deserves.  As a cyclist himself, Penn comes across as an individualist and nearly peerless - his attitude seems appropriate for the characters he encounters while building himself what amounts to a white elephant.
The vast majority of people who ride a bicycle would never have recourse to something like Penn's investment, but any of them could take it out for a spin. Perhaps that's what Penn would want to know he had expressed in his memoir - dream bike or not, if it's got two wheels, a drivetrain, a seat, handlebars and a sturdy frame, it'll roll.

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