Sorry for the lack of blogging - there's been lots of dissertatin' goin' on up in hee-ya. Until I'm through this busy patch, I hereby turn this into an interactive blog run by comments.

I'll kick things off - what's the smallest denomination of money you'd pick up from the sidewalk?


Is it worth making a MySpace page just to be Egg's internet friend?

Just too good for words?

Maybe I'll write about the New Pornographers concert later, and maybe I'll tell you about eating dinner with the opening band - Matt Pond PA.

Until then - bl..uuudd?

1969 Update

UTA (to the jeans post): No one scrolls down to look for updates, do they? I found out that the waxy, slick, water-resistant texture on the outside of these jeans means that they're made of raw, dry denim - a feature usually found on the $150-200 jeans I was just talking to OleNelson, Spice, J.Po and M.Bro about while we were waiting for the Andrew Bird concert to start.

Apparently, I knew enough about fancy jeans to know dry denim is something to want, but not enough to know it when it was sitting on my thighs. The indigo in these jeans isn't sanfordized, which means it will slowly wear away where there's friction (thighs and hinder) and creasing (crotch and knees) - then, when I wash them for the first time in 9-12 months (yeah, you read that right), they'll come out looking superultrafantasmazing. Apparently.

They're also selvedged, which I think I deserve some credit for noticing right away. It means the jeans are made on shuttle looms, rather than chain-stitched on projectile looms - slower, more labor-intensive, and generally indicative of higher overall quality.

As M.Bro is sick of hearing, I'm pretty stoked about these jeans. And even more stoked that they cost all of $19.98 on clearance.

OleNelson requested a picture of dry denim before&after months of wear with no washing, so here you (he) go(es) -

Big caves and productive meetings

This cave is slightly larger than my new cave at the library - click on it and look at the helicopters at the base of the waterfall.

My 45 minute disseration meeting with Scott resulted in four pages of notes and at least a dozen articles to read. For this progress, I'm rewarding myself with a New Pornographers concert tonight. And don't even try to stop be from having eggs benedict at Monty's before the concert. Don't even try.

The Making of a Dissertation

Here's how the process works for me:
Step 1 (3-4 weeks): I should be working on my dissertation. But it's only an hour until Celebrity Fit Club, so I'm not going to get much done anyway. I feel a little guilty about that, but oh well.


Step 3: return to Step 1
Now, if I could just figure out how to extend Step 2, I'd be in good shape. It depresses me, but I'm going to ask for a cage at the library this afternoon - a dank, dark, sensory-deprivation cage.

Gap 1969

M.Bro was awfully jealous of Spice and J.Po's tales of bargain-hunting, so we went to Weste Towne Malle yesterday afternoon in search of bargains of our very own. And, O, bargains did we find! After adding the regular prices on the receipts, the total came to $840 - for which we paid.....$76.

Out of that $76, the biggest-ticket item (and almost the only thing for me) was this fantastic pair of Gap 1969 jeans . The fit is fantastic, the color is perfect, and I wish you could reach through the internet to feel them, because they're soft like angel wings covered in marshmallows.


The Chittagong ship-breaking yards in Bangladesh disassemble half of the world's supertankers. Shipbreaking, though profitable, is not particularly safe for either the workers in the shipyard or the surrounding environment. It does, however, make for some spectacular pictures - here, here, and (for the best pictures) here, for example. (via metafilter)

Or right here -

I'm sorry what was that? "Screw you, dude - I want pictures of an abandoned asylum, not some rusty boats"? I live to serve.

Marriage Revelation

Have you ever had a completely unexpected spark of insight into a relationship? Just a flash of realization about how and why you and your partner interact the way you do? I had one last night as M.Bro and I were on the way to dinner with Spice, H.Go, OleNelson and J.Po.

I was telling M.Bro a story about how the nurse at my blood donation on Wednesday seemed utterly perplexed that I had received a tranfusion of my own blood in September - "So you did donate blood? And you say they gave you a transfusion of your own blood? Huh." Then I realized that I hadn't told M.Bro that I had already told the nurse about my marrow donation surgery - an important detail without which the nurse's confusion probably seemed not at all worthy of a story.

Then the flash of intuition hit me - M.Bro and I are polar opposites when it comes to assigning blame for someone else's confusion. When someone I'm talking to seems confused, I tend to blame myself for my poor explaining skills, usually apologize for not being clear, and then try to restate what I'm saying or give them extra information. In fact, sometimes I worry that I tell stories annoyingly because I continually stop myself in the middle of them to say, "Oh, and you also need to know that..." or, "HOLD ON I forgot to tell you that..." - since I feel responsible for their confusion, I try to anticpate it and head it off at the pass.

I inferred last night from a comment H.Go made that I, in fact, have a reputation for assuming people don't understand the references I make - even when they're references to relatively popular swing bands from the 1990's. I commented that I read in the Isthmus that Andrew Bird had been the violinist for Squirrel Nut Zippers, a band a listened to a lot in my swing phase. Spice asked, "Who?" I thought she meant "Who are the Squirrel Nut Zippers? I haven't heard of them," but what she really meant was, "Scarf the Hunsingers? Speak up, Mumbly-Joe!" H.Go commented that I often assume people don't get my references, even though they're pretty common references and I'm not even on the trivia team. I think maybe I'm just quick to over-explain myself because I feel like it's my fault if people seem to not understand me right away.

M.Bro, on the other hand, places the locus of blame on the listener. If something she's telling me isn't clear and I ask something to clarify, the response will often be something like, "C'mon - you knew what I meant" or "Yeah - I assumed you would have inferred that". I often notice when she's telling stories that both of us know to groups of people that she leaves out details that aren't primary to the story, but help the people hearing it to put it in context or understand why the story is funny. Probably annoyingly on my part again, I often interrupt to fill in what may very well be unimportant secondary information.

When we argue, which isn't very often, we almost always argue about some misunderstanding or miscommunication - never about questionable values ("Of course Lutherans are horrible people - don't even try to tell me they wouldn't kill you in your sleep") or single-eyebrow-raising decisions ("You pierced what?!?"). No - they usually involve exchanges like, "Well, what I thought you meant when you said blah was blah blah!" "Why in the world would you think that?!" "BECAUSE YOU SAID..." And it just goes on like that - they're arguments about who meant what by what and why the other person could have figured that out if the other person had just said something else. It's like we're talking right past each other.

M.Bro agrees with me in principle on this, but isn't eager that I talk about it - she thinks she comes off as a jerk. "So you're the wooooonderful teacher, worrying about whether people are understanding you and anticipating all their questions, and I'm just the bitch that says what she wants to say and lets people sort it out for themselves?" I can see how she'd interpret it that way, but let me offer an alternative interpretation in which I come off much worse - M.Bro has higher expectations of the people she's talking to, which is much more positive characteristic than the apparently low expectations I have when I'm talking. You could say that she trusts that they'll understand her, while I feel like they need me to hold their hand. I don't think that's entirely true either, but you can spin my insight either way.

All that said, it's not entirely clear to me what the practical application of this marital revelation is. You see, what I mean by that is....

It's a rim safari

The process of assembling the parts for the mtb wheelset I'm building is taking longer than I expected, but scouring ebay for deals and matching components is a lot more fun (and financially manageable) than just ordering full-price stuff from a shop. I already have a really nice pair of WTB GreaseGuard hubs, with a 28-hole Velocity K525 front rim. A reasonably-priced 28-hole rim was more difficult to find than I thought it would be, but I already had the hub - fortunately, Nashbar had the K525 on closeout for $10. The closest-matching 32-hole rear rim is the Velocity AeroHeat, but even though they say it's being made, I can't find one in silver anywhere. The search continues....



Brent the Tank just loaned me a copy of Jobst Brandt's The Bicycle Wheel, so once I find a rim and appropriate-length spokes, I'll be well-versed in the mysterious world of wheel-building.

Nucular Winter

Good god - that's a boatload of snow. Like a really big boat though - one of those Princess cruiseships, just filled up with powder.

After I spent all day preparing a fantastic lecture about expected utility theory of war termination, the provost sent an e-mail canceling all classes after 4:30. It's the first time I've been annoyed at a lecture being canceled - my students were supposed to hand in their first papers tonight and no class = logistical problem. At OleNelson's suggestion, I'm giving them until noon tomorrow to put a copy in their TA's mailbox - it makes them think we care about their safety, but doesn't give them all weekend to re-write the crap they threw together at 1:00 this morning.

Thinking I'd catch an early bus home, I checked - a bus'll get there when it gets there, just stand and wait for it, is what told me about the #14. Fortunately, one pulled up 30 seconds after I got the bus stop. And then got stuck for 20 minutes at the next stop. Another bus tried to push us, which was kind of awesome. Like beached whales trying to nudge one another back to safety.

Our string of six weeks without major sidewalk-scooping came to a serious end. An hour and a half scooping and salting from 5-6:30 this morning, which M.Bro followed up with two hours behind a snowblower this afternoon. The office's little snowblower just whimpered and imploded and the big snowblower is much too monstrous to get up even a single stair, so I just got back from another hour of scooping the staired sidewalks. We don't get paid enough for this.

J.Po - take your hippie snow back to hippie-land, hippie.

St. Paul Skyway MTB race

At first, this video made me sigh, "Oh, you crazy Minnesotans!" Then I realized that real Minnesotans would just race outside, right Minnesotans?

Detroit has more abandoned urban places than you can handle

Detroit is the closest you're going to get to post-apocalypse pre-apocalypse. But it's slowly turning Tiggerific Orange, thanks to a group of artists and community activists called Disney Demolition.

I'll get u Bluths! -Hello

I can't take credit for finding this, but OH MY GOD, the planning that goes into this show is really something spectacular. Afternoon Delight, the episode where the banana stand was thrown into the ocean, aired on December 19th...of 2004. That's 14 months before the payoff for that joke. M.Bro was right - AD was not only the funniest comedy on TV, but by far the most rewarding.

For example -

You've blown me, Arrested Development - you've blown me.


Registration is uuuuup! But don't sign up - you'll only hurt my chances of getting in. BurritoEater - do I want to apply for a preferred start position? Would my meager race results even qualify me?

Coding check

On my computer, the main text box now displays almost identically in IE and Firefox. I had to space is over from the left margin of the html column using "padding" code instead of "margin" code - it worked, but I'm not sure why. Are you still having display issues with that part of the page?

The sidebar is the next problem I'm working on -

UTA: OK - without some actual html training, I think this is the best I'm going to be able to do. If you open the page in both browsers, you can see the trouble I'm running into - Firefox pushes the text just a few pixels further away from the left margins of the columns (the html columns, which don't actually line up with the brown/white/brown columns on the background image - it'd be easier to just change those, but I don't know how). I'd like to push it just another 10 pixels to the right, but that makes the page too wide for the display area in IE - that's what's happening when the sidebar gets pushed down to the bottom of the page.

UTA2: It's not exactly how I wanted to fix it, but changing the color of the hyperlinks was a pretty easy way to stop the problem of them becoming invisible in that fade of the background image. And you get a surprise when you hover your pointer!

Chequamegon Fat Tire Forty

For the two of you that care about this sort of thing, registration opens soon! There's a four-week window to send in the form, and then a lottery to draw for the 1700 FTF spots on March 15th. If you're lucky enough to get a spot, you get to spend my birthday riding a 40-mile off-road mountain bike race on XC-skiing trails (the same ones the Birki uses), fire roads, and snowmobile trails. If I get in, this is one of my three A races of the season, along with the Horribly Hilly Hundred in June and XTERRA Midwest Champs in July.

For your procrastinating pleasure, here are some Chequamegon race reports -


Our department's floor hockey team - Overeducated/Undertrained - kicked off the intramural season with an 8-1 loss last night. That's a big check in the win column, though - just like any other game in which we don't get shut out or mercy-ruled.

We're playing in the coed league for the first time this year, which we thought would be more fun than getting beat up by teams of guys that had been playing ice hockey together since grade school. Not that female players couldn't be just as serious and just as good and beat us just as heartily (obviously), but that we thought really competitive players would gravitate toward the more competitive leagues - a self-reinforcing circle of us-getting-beatenness, if you will.

I can't speak for everyone on the team, but I got the vibe that the fun level wasn't quite as high as last season's. I think it comes down to time on the ice - we have the same number of male players, but coed league rules don't let more than two of us on the floor at the same time - so instead of four players with two subs (which is a pretty substantial number of minutes), it's two players with four subs and usually not more than 2-3 minutes of playing before feeling like you should give someone else a chance to miss shots, stumble over their own stick, whiff, and silently resent the undergrads for being so young and spry.

On the 5K front, I'm not writing a separate race report post. Since it was only a $4 entry fee, I decided to just run with M.Bro instead of pushing it. We turned in a 29 something time, but more importantly, I think she decided to register for the Mad-City half-marathon in May and is 65% of the way to committing to a full marathon next Spring.

Thoughts on the re-design?

After a change to (and some pretty substantial modifications of) the Mr. Moto template, I'm 90% happy with the redesigned site. I'd like the new header graphic to stretch to the right further (although that may be a function of your screen size), I'd like my name and location in my profile to be left-aligned, I'd like the giant dates in the post headers to go away, and I'd like there to be a few more pixels of white space separating my posts.

Other suggestions, complaints, or bemused ponderings on the state of the cosmos?

UTA: After many updates and google searches for things like "CSS margin-top-style", I'm pretty happy with the visuals. I'm supposed to run a 5K with M.Bro at 11:00 tomorrow which is only 8 1/2 hours away right now - ugh.

Update #2 - I seem to be having some trouble with Internet Explorer displaying correctly - the posts should be in the white center strip and the right side-bar should be visible at the top of the page. I'm working on it - reserve judgment until I get this fixed.

Update #3 - What the hell, dudes? How can Firefox and IE display a 140 pixel left margin differently?!?

New race calendar addition?

The EnduroSnob Epic - 300 unsupported, off-road miles over two days - in Nebraska. So it'll be cold. And mostly boring.

Blogger isn't letting me upload pictures, so you'll just have to believe me that the race flyer is Madison-rider CreepyFriendly's design.

A new idea in department store bikes

I've substantially reduced the impact of this post by not being able to find a copy of the article, but Bicycling Magazine had a story last year sometime about the millions of "forgotten" bike commuters - blue-collar workers, mainly immigrants, who ride to work not for health or environmental reasons, but because they can't afford a car or don't have alternative transportation. I remember the article, which was primarily photos, mentioned in passing that these bike commuters rode primarily cheap department store mountain bikes. The kind of cheap department store mountain bikes that my sometimes-employers sells by the ship-load. These bikes, while in the right price range, are essentially disposable - due to low-quality components (to hit that $99 price point), they're tough to keep in good working condition, even if they were being given regular maintenance.

I've also had conversations with both my father and my father-in-law in which they've expressed interest in buying a bike. What kind of a bike, dad/Darrell? You know - just a bike - I don't need a bunch of gears or anything fancy. Just a bike.

I think there's an untapped market for these just-a-bikes. Imagine the bike below with a coaster brake and a chainguard - super-cheap to make, since it has no derailleurs, no brakes, and no levers, and especially so if it had narrow 26" wheels/tires and a threaded stem; and it would require virtually no maintenace or adjustment beyond regular chain lube. If you can make and sell a commuter-bike like that (with subdued paint and graphics, so as not to compete with the very profitable mountain bike line) for under a hundred dollars, I think you could strike a chord with a big group of consumers. Who wants to help me get parts from the Olney warehouse and build a prototype?

Update: Redline has the right idea - they just announced a bike called the 9-2-5, which is almost exactly what I was picturing. It retails for $525, though.

Teaching Academy

Let's say that I want to make my job application more attractive to future potential employers by applying to be a Future Faculty Partner at UW's Teaching Academy. Let's also say that the application asks for a nomination letter for the nominated person, but the instructions say that self-nominated applications are also accepted. Let's say that I'm wondering whether I'd be better off just nominating myself, or convincing one of my friends to "nominate" me.

PSA: The Windsor

In an effort to expand my tie-tying oeuvre, I tried to tie a full Windsor this morning. I think my tie was a little short to do it well, but I'm wearing a sweater and no one can tell that the tip of my tie isn't touching my belt buckly. It's a much more substantial knot than the half Windsor my Dad taught me as a youngin' - I like it.


Tired of wearing t-shirts The Man designed for you, but too lazy to screen-print your own? Aren't we all?!? Well, homeslice, Threadless is for us -
Threadless is an ongoing tee shirt design competition. Designs are put into the running to be scored for 7 days. After those 7 days high scoring designs are chosen to be printed and sold from our "SHOP" section!

One of my favorite parts is that you can get store credit by submitting a picture of yourself wearing the shirts you buy - pictures which then get added to the website.

Until Feb 25th, they're running a sale - $10/shirt ($5-7 off) if you use coupon code tenbucks20 [ed. note: Spice is right in the comments - I guess the code is only good for 3+ shirts]. The sale isn't advertised anywhere on the site - it's only by word of mouth, so you'll have to imagine the preceding words coming from my mouth. I just ordered The Outdoor Mix, The Flat House, and Caged.

Geeks with disposable income

Apparently, Gus and Pam enjoyed the Star Wars films. They have a gorgeous house overlooking Puget Sound, and other than the cereal room and the slightly creepy case-of-yearbooks, it's probably the most interesting collection of Star Wars memorabilia you could collect. Other than the cereal, it looks like the bulk of their collection is made up of props and prototypes. If you're going to be a Star Wars Collector-Geek, I suppose its best to be the SWCG with one-of-a-kind stuff.

Triple H

The 2006 Horribly Hilly Hundred - 124 miles with over 12,000 feet of climbing - filled in four days this year. I remember doing this ride three years ago when you could walk up to the registration table on Saturday morning to pick up a slot. I DNFd in 2003 with a broken seatpost, finished in 10:58 in 2004 (including two hours of near-crying at the 100-mile rest stop), and missed last year after waiting too long to register (2005 was the first year the ride has filled, which took eight weeks). My goal this year is 9:00, which would have put me in the top fifth (87th place) in 2004 and top third (139th place) in 2005. Since the riders signing up are getting faster and faster, I'm hoping a 9:00 ride will put me in the top half.

The Lion-Dog Alliance

In the same vein as grrrbear's this-snake-and-hamster-are-friends post from a few weeks ago, prepare for your cuteness sensors to be overwhelmed by Cairo the dog and Koza the lion. Koza's twin died and the San Diego zoo brought Cairo to live with him for companionship. Now they're just the best of friends and they're going to have soo many awesome adventures together!

Update: We have Metafilter's comments section to thank for more interspecies buddies!

Floyd's Tomb

Just reading this makes me nervous and twitchy and my breath shallow and quick. Heights make me a little nervous, but I've literally woken up crying and sweating and shaking multiple times after dreaming about being trapped in a hole.
When I reached the point where my back was rubbing and I could feel with my head the passage was not getting bigger, I knew I was most likely not going to get through. Still, I decided to give it one more push. If I had been in this position a year ago, I would have been in a state of panic, but not today! I was pretty pumped. I took a few minutes to rest, then I went for it. I exhaled completely all of the air in my lungs. This caused my chest to collapse enough to scoot forward a few inches. Because it takes so much effort to scoot I only went a few inches before I had to stop and breathe. As I inhaled, my chest pressed hard against the floor and my back against the top.

I'm only on page six, but according to the Metafilter post (and some hints in the first five pages), something "unbelievable" is going to happen to this guy. Frankly, I'm not sure I can take much more than I have.

Did you know aloha means both "pumpkin" and "near-miss"?

I'm kind of giddy - we just reserved our plane tickets for M.Bro's brother's wedding in Hawaii! We leave Chicago on March 24th and get back (at 5:48 a.m.) on April 4th - that's ten days in gorgeous, sunny whatever island her brother lives on. We reserved our hotel (on the beach, natch) two weeks ago, but the trip didn't really feel real until a few minutes ago. And the best part? Wait - there's a part that's better than just having tickets to Hawaii? Yes, there is. The tickets were M.Bro's annual bonus from her ridiculously generous boss.

I want to ride a bike up a volcano. And then back down.

Colonade MTB Skills Park

Seattle's Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club is in the process (pretty far in the process, from the photos of turning two acres of otherwise-unused land under and near Interstate 5 into a small (city-sanctioned)mountain bike park. It's not really the kind of mountain biking I do (because I'm fragile), but what a cool idea. There are loads more photos of the project on BBTC's site.

I-5 Colonnade Park, Seattle's first and only urban mountain bike skills park, will include two acres of trails that are full of skill building features for mountain bikers to ride such as switchbacks, log rides, rock gardens, skinnies, wall-rides and small jumps. Unlike traditional northwest mountain biking, I-5 Colonnade will allow riders to guide their mountain bikes over the many skill-building elements while riding through the freeway support columns “colonnades”, in a unique, rain-free environment. The trails simulate natural terrain and obstacles while reflecting the urban character of the park. The entire park facility will include open space, a mountain bike skills park, an off-leash dog area, public art, and an ADA accessible walkway that reconnects the Capitol Hill and Eastlake neighborhoods.

A Post in the Style of McSweeney's Open Letters to People or Entities Who are Unlikely to Respond

An Open Letter to J.Bro's Body

Dear various parts of my body,

We've had some good times in our 26 years together, huh? I've treated you pretty well by most standards. Maybe not by Brad Pitt in Fight Club or Troy standards, but certainly by Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black standards. I've clothed you in the best a graduate student's budget allows for, I've exercised you, and I haven't allowed too much cigarette smoke inside of you. You have not been tattoed irresponsibly.

I've also fed you - and that's the reason I'm writing you this letter. Where in our many years together did I lead you to believe that we could starve? When we were little, my mom fed us formula, and later, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. As we grew up together, I've put various ethnic foods in you, and I've taken your suggestions seriously. Have we been back to David's Jamaican? No, we haven't.

Given our history of mutual cooperation, it hurts my feelings that you seem to think I'll get us abandoned on a deserted island. If that's not true, then why do you feel like you need to keep ten pounds of fat reserves in your stomach and love handles? When I look at you in the mirror after I shower, can you hear what you're saying to me? "Hey - I think there's a chance you'll get me trapped in a well, or maybe a concentration camp." I feel I've done nothing to deserve this distrust, or, frankly, this insult to my intelligence. Partnerships have to be built on trust and mutual respect, so let's let this just-in-case weight go, OK?

Yours in living responsibly,

Colber Repor

Did David Cross just give Madison a shout-out? Mifflin Street Co-op - I thiink soo! Deathglomerates!

Spinning: The Conclusion

Today was a monster - classes at 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., and 5:30 p.m., and another 2 1/2 hours of riding before/after/between classes. That's 5 1/2 hours, which is probably my longest training day since the summer of 2003 and my biggest offseason day ever. I think I'm going to say I went 9.5/10 on the Spinning Challenge, though, because I was riding pretty half-assed at the 5:30 class. Not really because I was tired (I was, but that's not why) - a weird feeling in my right knee at the 6:00 class turned into a twinge by the 9:00 class turned into a sore, stiff knee by this evening. I'm icing it now (well, not right now) and skipping the noon class tomorrow. I should also skip the noon class to clean before M.Bro gets back. I've been watching TV in my underwear and eating cheetos on the couch for six days.

Raconteurs mp3s - you failed me

Since no one could tell me how to turn streaming audio into an mp3, you don't get to see a heron biting a duck. Instead, I offer you this as a consolation prize -