monday round-up post

…written slowly and intermittently throughout my workday…

nycschwinn
bicycle
despite all the photos that i’ve posted of her, what you’ve never known about nigella (my lovely 1972 raleigh single speed with coaster brake) is that she was noisy as hell. in the past couple years that i’ve had her, i hadn’t once opened up her bottom bracket, nor adjusted the cranks, and it was showing: every push on the pedals was generating the most embarrassing squeal. finally i couldn’t take it anymore, and i spent yesterday’s shift at the bike shop taking apart and rebuilding the whole thing. no surprise: the grease had hardened into chunks, and the central cylinder was full of sparkly crystals that disintegrated into black powder when i rubbed them between my fingers. i would bet that this was the first time that anyone had cleaned her out… in 37 years!!!

fortunately, the cups and spindle were okay. i replaced the bearings with new ones, and packed it all in smooth new grease. one of the cotter pins, which are the special bolts that attached the cranks to the bottom bracket spindle on old bikes like these, had to be replaced because the threads were crushed, but luckily we had some that were used and in good condition. all the new cotter pins in stock were too small (in diameter) for the holes in my cranks.

after all the scrubbing, replacing, regreasing, adjusting, and rebuilding of the bottom bracket, i spent a good 40 minutes on my chain. the recycl!st@s standard procedure for cleaning a chain is to coat it with oil and then wipe it down with a rag, repeatedly, leaving it on the bike the whole time. it’s not nearly as satisfying as dipping the chain in gasoline, like i used to do as a kid, but much healthier for all concerned. i used an old tooth brush (with oil on the bristles) as well as the rag, because the dirt was caked-on between the links. it never got shiny, but it now runs like a charm. in fact, the entire bike feels new… she’s smooth and easy and soooooooooo quiet.

sometimes it’s worth having a crappy ride if only so that you can truly appreciate the way it feels when every thing’s been fixed.

also, this is an excellent example of why you’re better off spending $200 on an old bike plus a mechanic’s time, rather than dropping it all on a c@n@dian tire special. not only will you get a bike that actually has some character, but you’ll also get something that will last for 30+ years and still function perfectly! it’s all about quality, my friends: they just don’t make (most) bicycles like they used to.

i’m thinking of going to the seattle international bike expo, march 14-15, along with my friend and mechanic-mentor, tri. it’d be our one last bout of serious bike-geeking together, before i head off to oz and she moves to the mainland. it’s so sad, and yet still so necessary.

school
last week i went to the info night for the trades programs at the local community college. the talk itself wasn’t very thrilling, but i got pretty excited in the campus bookstore, when i saw that the electrical program text is the provincial electrical code. that’s the kinda book i’d buy anyway, just because it’s fascinating. it was a good reminder for me: no matter how much i may be challenged by having 18-year-old boys as classmates, the fact remains that i love the topic.

the electrical foundation program is self-paced and new people start/end every month. at the start of the month, the teachers guess how many students will graduate at the end of the month, and that many people off the waitlist as then offered positions. so, i’d only have 1 month’s notice of starting school. also, once you’ve been offered a spot, you can only defer once before being put back at the bottom of the wait list. basically, i need to apply now. the neat thing about the program being self-paced is that it can be done in less time than the advertised duration of 6 months, which costs less since tuition is by the week.

if i decide to do this, these are my two coping mechanisms for dealing with the cost/time investment and the fact that queer femmy girls in trades get flack: 1) i will be a hardcore student, study a lot, and get through the program as quickly as possible, and 2) i will attend classes in character, based loosely on diane rigg’s emma peel in the avengers (1965).

house
i sent out an email to all my friends last week, about subletting my apartment. in response, i’ve received one phone call and one email, and both are from complete strangers. the person on the phone had received an email about it, but didn’t know from whom. the person on the email referenced seeing my “ad”, which is odd, because i didn’t place an ad. this makes me feel a little uncomfortable, but i *do* need to rent the place out… so tomorrow i’m showing it to the guy who called. the person who emailed is currently in ontario, which is unfortunate because he is a serious cyclist and so currently my preferred subletter of the two. i am easily biased.

in other house-related news, my landlady had her house broken into on friday and her computer stolen. she lives next door, so this is rather unnerving. still, i don’t own anything worth stealing, or at least from the perspective these local grab-and-go types: i doubt they’d notice the artwork on my walls.

art
this past saturday night i went to dinner at a friend’s house. knowing that there’d be a couple kids there, i grabbed some bags of beads and brought them with me. by “some bags of beads”, i mean tiny glass seed beads in at least 20 colours, tons of random fancy glass ones of all sizes, plus more made of wood, and all sorts of string: nylon, elastic, wire, leather, cotton, hemp. honestly, i didn’t even know *what* was in there, because it was given to me by someone ages ago and i’d never gotten around to going through it. i’m glad i brought it to dinner: all of us dinner guests, kids included, made each other necklaces and bracelets and rings. there was lots left over, and i told them to keep it. people are always giving me random art supplies that i’ll never use, and i’m pleased when i find good homes for them instead of letting them languish on my shelves.

pop culture
veronica mars s01e20 is crazily homophobic: veronica blackmails this horrible guy by making him seem queer, which ruins his plans to join the navy, and not once in the entire episode did anyone mention the injustice of the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy! instead, there was a general attitude of acceptance with regards to homophobia: it was left unquestioned, even as it was the basis of the plot.

yes, once again, i am disappointed by mainstream teevee. go figure.

farm
my upstairs neighbours and i are going to ask our landlady if we can get chickens, when i come home from australia. a coop and small run could fit next to my patio, if we cleared away some low-lying branches from the trees. the limit in our municipality is four hens, which would be more than enough eggs (at an estimated rate of 2 eggs/3 days per bird). we’re also planning on going big and experimental with our worm composting exploits. currently, i have a “castaway” bin, and they have a homemade multi-tiered worm condo that doesn’t always work too well: we want to put together something larger and most efficient, probably outdoors on one of our decks. hopefully it’ll combine well with the chickens, to provide them with extra protein and get rid of the bird manure. i’m stoked at the possibilities.

job
a coworker and i stopped to chat as we crossed on a path near our office, and were interrupted by a racket: a hummingbird, possibly an anna’s hummingbird, was sitting on the branch above our heads and chirping very lustily. it’s somewhat easier to cope with the dismantling of our projects and the disregard for the past several years of our labour when the sun is shining as it is today. somewhat.

i have developed a recurring spasm in the muscle below my left eye and am told that this sort of twitch is due to stress. ’nuff said.

[photo: not my bike! a schwinn cruiser, seen on the street in nyc, march 2008]

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