Monday, November 24, 2008

What Good Writers Won't Tell You

We had one of those profound word-nerd moments at work the other day. Someone had stumbled into a really weird, awkward, special-case plural possessive -- I won't reveal it, so as not to humiliate myself, my co-workers, and all our collected English teachers.

As we're wont to do in these situations (being a cube-farm full of professionally trained wordsmiths), everyone had a go at it, and no one really knew the absolutely-100%-correct way to handle this obscure little corner of the language. There were lots of theories and lots of, "I like it this way, but I don't know if that's right," answers, but no one planted their flag in the sand and said, "I've got it!"

What this room full of good writers could do, however, was artfully dodge the offending construction. Everyone had at least three rewrites of the sentence that would skirt the problem entirely, sneaky little rhetorical and/or grammatical sidesteps that came to us almost by instinct.

It made me wonder if that's how other people make other occupations look way too easy. Maybe everyone -- no matter what their area of expertise or how long they've studied it -- has that nagging hole in their knowledge, but they can run around it or jump over it so fast, the untrained observer thinks they meant to do it that way all along.

File under L for "Lazy justifications for not studying up on my obscure possessive rules."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Bikey Break From The Fungus

... in which your humble narrator wimps out not once, but twice.

As I passed the new bank on my ride to work yesterday morning (locals: southwest corner of Woodland and MLK), the temp read 14 degrees (international readers: Fahrenheit), but I swore it felt colder. Brutal.

After work, I saddled up, and something felt rotten in Denmark. Flat front tire. Crap.

I dug out my cell phone (no easy feat in full-bore winterwear) to tell Carla that I would be a little late getting home since I had a flat to fix. Check that -- those were the words in my head. What came out of my mouth was, "Can you come pick me up?" Pansy.

Today, the temps felt a little better, and while I didn't intend to do the local Cranksgiving alleycat (see footnote), I figured I could at least go turn the cranks outside for 45 minutes or so. Then, big fluffy snowflakes started falling, my bionic leg started aching, and the irresistible pull of couch/football games proved to be too much. Does reading Nashbar and Performance catalogs on the couch count for anything?

I did, however, fix my flat, in the heated comfort of my own home. Mini-product endorsement for a mini-product: I really, really, really like the Topeak Mini-Morph pump that arrived this week as a birthday present from my third set of grandparents, the Fischbeins -- hi, Bernice and Jerry! This is the tiniest one with no gauge, but I was able to hit a reasonably rideable 50psi (in a 700x32) with very little strain. In the field, it wouldn't have taken much more work to hit my usual 60psi, but with a full-size floor pump sitting behind me, I figured it wasn't worth the bother.

FOOTNOTE (as promised): Do all alleycats lump "fixed gear with brake" into the "singlespeed" category instead of letting them compete against other fixed gear riders? Last I checked, the term "fixed gear" referred to one's drivetrain. Sounds to me like a tacit admission that a brakeless fixed gear can't hang with those whose common sense has trumped their need for the "pure, Zen-like essence of the unadorned bike", or whatever the current line of crap is these days on Fixed Gear Gallery.

Bitter, table for one!

Sounds like I need to go back to tending my mushrooms, enjoying the pure, Zen-like essence of the unadorned farm in a cardboard box...

SHEEPISH ADMISSION, INSERTED TWO DAYS AFTER ORIGINAL POST: Blowing the cobwebs off my memory of the one Cranksgiving I raced, I seem to recall that despite my "methinks he doth protest too much" kvetching about the fixie-with-brake-equals-singlespeed taxonomy, I managed to get my arse soundly whupped by every one of those brakeless fixie guys. So, perhaps the old adage is true, that a brake only slows you down. Or the slightly less old adage, guys who blog more than they ride are really slow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mycological Mystery Mastered: Me Mum Mailed Mushrooms

Yes, suspense-addled readers, it was my dear Mom who sent the box o'shrooms for my birthday. Those who correctly bet on "Nancy" may now collect their winnings.

Not much else to report on my new career as a mushroom farmer, as the fungi in question are still sitting in the box, waiting to mature. I fear that they've reached the "angry teen" stage, as I'm hearing the unmistakable sounds of mushroom punk blaring from the box.

Stay tuned for the grand opening, and for the subsequent announcement that I've cast off my business casual yoke, bolted from my cubicle, and embraced a simpler life on the land, raising only the finest free-range fungi.

Or, I'll end up with a smelly box of dirt. Place your bets...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Today's Mystery: Fungus Among Us

Warning: ZERO bicycle content here. My usual cadre of cyclemaniacs can move along.

I discovered a strange box on my porch this afternoon:

It was addressed to me, and I did have a birthday last weekend (turning the ripe old age of [REDACTED]), but I must say, I'm a bit mystified. Who the heck would send me a "grow your own portobello mushrooms" kit from the good folks at (I kid you not) Mushroom Adventures? There may be a card inside explaining everything, but the box insists that I not "start" the kit before November 21 (since it is "still maturing" -- a mildly disturbing thought, since as the picture shows, I've let it into my house), and I don't know if opening the box constitutes "starting."

All things considered, quite a mystery.

This is the sort of thing my mom would send. Or maybe one of my nutty aunts (he says with love -- they both know they're nuts, just like the rest of the family, present company included). But for now, I'm soaking in the mysteriousness of my fungal arrival, not wanting to break the spell by calling family and getting some answers.

So, consider this the beginning of Mushroom Countdown '08: This Time, It's Mycological. We're at SIX days and counting to the great unveiling, which (I hope) will have all the grandeur, drama, and military precision of the opening of the Ark of the Covenant scene in Raiders, but without all the Nazis and the face-melting.

Stay tuned, folks! After all, the mystery box promises that growing mushrooms at home is "fun and exciting" -- which makes me mildly concerned, since I knew guys in college who got arrested for growing "fun and exciting" mushrooms at home and going on a little "mushroom adventure".

Saturday, November 8, 2008

One Brief Political Indulgence

This is not (repeat, NOT) a partisan political blog. Sure, I'll gripe about the entire political process/machine from time to time, but I try (usually) to keep my personal leanings out of it.

Still, I'm going to allow myself one tiny commentary on the election.

I was having a hard time expressing how I felt after the dust settled Tuesday night. Then, a good friend sent me the following e-mail: "It feels like the Dementors are finally gone."

Yup, that seems about right.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Non-Runner Eats Crow

Well that just figures.

I was in Phoenix AZ for a week on business, and decided that it just wasn't worth the hassle to either a) ship a bike down, b) fly with a bike, or c) rent a bike while I was there. That meant a week of toil on the exercise room elliptical machine just so I wouldn't feel like a fat tub of goo after eating restaurant food all week.

Meanwhile, one of my co-workers was training for a marathon. His entire training kit fit in a tiny corner of one small carry-on bag. So while I marinated in my own sweat, he put in real miles on 70-degree mornings with zero humidity.

Advantage: Runners.