Monday, January 26, 2009

Bike-friendly Campus

So I've tried to take my bike commuting pretty seriously.  Today I rode with the temperature in the teens and it wasn't even the coldest day I've ridden this year.  My campus is trying to be more pedestrian friendly as it develops its first residential life.  As it put a new road right through campus, it managed to include a bike lane.  

Also, the campus put in new bike racks.  I wish I had a picture of the old ones.  They were hilarious.  They consisted of a cement block with a slit for a tire and a chain link to attach a lock.  Besides the potential damage the block could do to a rim, no modern lock worth using would fit through the chain link and the location of the link would make it difficult to secure the frame.  But I digress.  

So they put in new bike racks.  They are fairly standard "wave" style commercial bike racks.  There are better ones, but they are solid and work better than a cement block with a chain link.  Despite the university's goals of being more bike-friendly, it doesn't seem to have considered those of us who ride in winter.  There are a few bike racks on campus, one of which is under an overhang and sheltered from snow and rain.  But it isn't the one closest to my office.  So on days without precipitation, I park near my office, at a rack that is exposed to the elements.  Also, the groundskeepers push all of the snow out of the major walkways and right into the rack near my office.  

Maybe I'm lazy and don't want to walk across campus, maybe I'm stubborn, or maybe I want to make a statement, but I still want to park near my office.   

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Brick Streets

Today I had to get our new family addition a birth certificate, which is an interesting story in itself.  I've never had to, nor have I known anyone who has had to, apply (is that the right word?) for a birth certificate for a newborn.  But that is a post for a different day.  

This post is about my ride from work to the County Clerk's office in the County Courthouse.  For my trip, I had to ride up Saginaw Street, our Main Street.  It is a brick street, which was paved over for a while, and then returned to bricks as the city tries to modernize while returning to its past glory.  

So, I turned left from Kearsley Street onto Saginaw, onto the bricks.  It wasn't as smooth a ride as one might want.  I spent most of my time out of the saddle.  The road was sloppy, but my skinny tires cut right through the slop.  Despite getting nearly doored (on accident), all the drivers on the road were polite, moving to the left lane and one driver allowing my to pass a construction site in front of her.  

On the ride, I had my first mechanical mishap on the winter bike.  My lock slid off my rack and managed to pull the bungee course into my rear sprocket.  Needless to say it stopped me.  A little grease on the fingers and I was off again.  

And after the ride up the bricks, my bottom was no worse for wear.  Hey, if Lance can ride bricks, so can I.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I feel lighter today.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Early Onset

After the twins went to bed I went grocery shopping at Meijer.  Shopping at Meijer always takes a bit of extra energy from me.  It's too big and too busy and too unfriendly.  I shop there, though, because, barring the Farmers Market -- where I also shop, they have the best produce and prices in town.  So, given my limited budget, I shop at there.  

So tonight I went and worked my way up and down the aisles, occasionally going back to previous aisles from which I forgot to find things.  It was slow and I was tired.  After I got to the checkout lane, waited for the women in front of me, unloaded my groceries, and watched the teller start my groceries, I reached for my wallet.  It wasn't there.  I checked all my pockets, but I knew it was no use.  It wasn't there.  Sadly, this is not the first time I've done this.  It's not even the first time I've done this in 2009.  

I wonder if I have early onset Alzheimer's.  I forget things all the time I never used to forget.  I have thought of all the typical excuses polite friends make.  "Oh, you are sleep deprived because of the children." "You're just distracted."  "You have too many things going on in your life right now."  But I'm unwilling to accept these rationalizations.  Maybe it's age, and I have what some jokingly call CRS.  Maybe I don't want to be weak and think these excuses could cause my absentmindedness.  Maybe I want to believe there is something significant to blame besides myself.  An illness seems something outside of me, something I can blame.  Maybe it's the drama queen in me that proposes this idea.  But I wonder if it isn't something more than simple forgetfulness.  

The story of my shopping adventure ends with kindness. The teller, Jackie, asked where I lived, and I told her.  She told me I could get my wallet and then pay for the groceries.  Then she rang up my items and had an employee put them in the freezer.  She told me when I returned to seek her out and simply pay.  It was the nicest experience I have had at Meijer.  

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Usufruct Redux

Sometimes we can "get our eyes on" after we learn of something new.  For example, if you've ever learned about a new car, and then you see the car everywhere.  Or, you start paying attention to the color of a car, and you begin to see that car color everywhere.  

Well, I was reading the Flint Journal today and I saw an add from the Journal promoting the paper.  It was about a staff writer, Ron Fonger.  In his bio at the bottom, he states that he owns "10 acres, most of which is farmed by a neighbor."  Here is the definition of usufruct as I understand it.  Of course there are no details about his arrangement with his neighbor, but I suspect it is a generous arrangement.  Why wouldn't it be?  

In a town, in a part of the country, I often assume lacks the kind of progressive ideas (or what I assume are progressive ideas), I am regularly reminded of my assumptions and stereotypes and prejudices.  In Fonger's case of usufruct, it is most likely little more than a neighborly act, though again I am assuming.  After all, the text is for an advertisement.  But I'm going to stay with my dream, that Fonger does this as a neighborly act, and little more.  Ultimately, this is more about me, my assumptions and prejudices, and as something gets pointed out to me, brought to my attention, I will see it everywhere.  And in this case, I hope it's true.

Friday, January 02, 2009


So I recently discovered the concept of usufruct in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma.  As I understand it, it is an idea that dates back to the Romans in which a person can us use or benefit from another's property as long as the property isn't damaged.  Pollan writes about an experience in which he took cherries that hung over a tree into a family member's yard.  Pollan also describes places in his hometown, Berkeley, from which he can get fruit from publicly located trees.  

Though I have traditionally been on the cautious side, my wife has readily enjoyed the benefits of the public cornucopia.  One of my earliest memories of this is camping at Craig Lake in the U.P. and finding some wild blueberries.  She, I, and another friend made blueberry pancakes, with the blueberries that survived our happy taste buds.  

Now, the twins and I take bike rides in the fall and pick mulberries from the trees along the Flint River Trail.  It makes for happy messy times.  I look forward to making it a foursome when our new one is old enough.  

Thursday, January 01, 2009

4-year Old Reprimand

Today, the first day of 2009, I was told "Don't be silly." by a 4-year old.

I'm so proud.

Happy New Year.

RIP Senator Pell

Though never a recipient of a Pell grant myself, many of my friends (far more qualified for college than I was) and many of my students are/were able to attend college because of the program. In an era when higher education, and funding for it, is under attack, Pell grants are one of the few bright spots for helping those who need it.

It is a sad day for champions of greater access to higher education.

Rest in Peace Senator Pell.