Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Bike to Work

I ride a bike. No, I'm not a Lance Armstrong wannabe, but I do enjoy pedaling to work. It's relaxing, it's a bit of exercise, and it's a good stress relief on the way home. I'm generally in my work clothes (business casual), so I'm not doing anything to get really hot or sweaty in the mornings, but in the afternoon I make it a point to sprint home as quickly as possible.

There are a couple of small hills, and I try each day to get up and over them quicker than the day before. This means I'm probably moving quicker than you might guess. No, I'm not setting any speed records, but 25 mph isn't out of the question, and hey, that's the speed limit on these city streets anyway.

Between work and home I have 3 stops signs that I deal with. The rest of the trip I have a clear shot on one street with no stop signs, but there are total of 11 cross streets for my trip. I'm leery of the cross streets - in the years I've lived in this neighborhood I'm very aware that people in cars just don't stop at the cross streets. Even before I was riding my bike to work there were many instances where some knucklehead would run the stop signs and almost hit me.

It's a bigger issue now on a bike. At least in the car I felt I had some protection, but on a bike my only protection from these irresponsible drivers is my own awareness and common sense.

This past week there were two instances where I encountered someone that didn't feel it necessary to yield any sort of right of way or obey the stop signs. In both cases I made eye contact with these individuals before they decided to cross directly in front of me. Each time they recognized me, and I assumed they were going to allow me to go by. Each time I was partially in the intersection when these licensed drivers decided to go. Both times required me to stop way more quickly than I like. Fortunately, both times I was expecting such behavior from the drivers, but gee whiz -- it's one thing to just be unaware that I'm on the road, it's another to look me directly in the eyes, and then decide that since you're in a car that I will just have to stop where I'm not required to allow you to give in to your impatience and self-importance.

Look, I'm moving pretty quickly. Frankly, I'm going just as fast as I would be even if I were in a car. You would have waited for me if I were in a car. You can wait on me if I'm on my bike. For that matter, you're supposed to wait. I'm following the traffic rules -- and not just because I'm just being a goody-two-shoes, but I follow the rules for my own safety. If I can make the effort to follow the rules, you should too.

It's a shame that there are drivers out there that just don't care about bicyclists. It makes it tough to encourage other people to ride their bikes to work. They know that these idiots are out there and they're just too afraid of getting run down by people that don't care or just aren't paying attention.

Share the road.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm Allergic to Cats

As far as I know, I've always been allergic to cats. I sneeze. I cough. My nose runs. My eyes water, itch and turn a beautiful color of pink. It's a miserable thing. That said, I've always been fascinated with kittens and cats. They're bright, funny, amusing and , for the most part, self reliant.

A few weeks ago a cute, pink nosed, female, stray cat showed up. She acted hungry, so Tina fed her thereby making her ours. She's a good cat for the most part - jumps too much, but she's nice. I keep my distance and I don't handle her much. If I do, I wash my hands immediately before I goof up and touch my face. So far I've kept the allergy under control without any medication. We've been calling her Miss Kitty. Clever, eh?

Fast forward to this past Saturday. I needed a 10mm wrench, so we stopped at Sears at Walnut Square Mall in Dalton, Georgia. Found a wrench, paid for it, and we decided to walk through the mall. We usually just cruise from one end to the other and look at the people and occasionally stop in the stores.

First store we spotted was the Pet Store. We usually stop there and check out the puppies, fish, reptiles and the assortment of rodents. There's the occasional ferret, chinchillas, guinea pigs and sometimes rabbits. This day they had a cage with kittens. They were a cute lot too. $25 later we're the proud owner of a kitten.

Meet Phantom... he's a cute one. He's a bundle of kitten ready to pounce, run, climb, jump, play, and sleep. He's a good kitten, doesn't scratch too hard, doesn't bite too hard, and is more content with a paper wad than a store bought cat toy.

The first morning (that was Sunday) he woke me up wanting to play "paper wad". He was beside the bed meowing. I called him, and he climbed up on the bed with his paper wad - cute.

Today may have been a bit stressful for him; Tina spotted a couple fleas. So he got a very gentle flea treatment (according to instructions from the vet), and two baths. I'm sure he was stressed out for the better part of the afternoon, but as of this moment, he's quite rambunctious, playing with Samuel and a ping pong ball -- the afternoon is ancient history.

One positive for him today was his encounter with Miss Kitty. So far they're not friends. I think sworn enemies may be the current state, but today they both got a good sniff of each other before the hissing started. After the confrontation he went back to playing with Samuel, and she ate quickly and immediately went back outside. Though that may sound fairly serious it's an improvement in the diplomatic relations.

Technically Phantom is my first cat. Tina and I had a cat when we were first married, but she was our cat. Phantom is all mine. Of course, Samuel and Tina like him too. But when it's time to sleep or just crash, he tracks me down.

My allergies? Well, honestly I've not had it so bad. I have taken a couple of loratadine tablets, but for the most part I've endured without the itchy watery eyes.

Oh, almost forgot - his name came by a suggestion by a Banjo Lounge regular and friend - Karyn. Thanks Karyn. It's a great name, has multiple meanings, and it just suits him.

I think it's time to go play with the kitten.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Awana Grand Prix

Our church's Awana program had their first Awana Grand Prix today. It's a Pinewood Derby race, much like the Cub Scouts.

Samuel, Tina and I had been preparing some cars for the race, and today was the day we found out how they would run. We've been sanding, painting, adjusting... our living room has been looking like a wood shop for the past month. I know Tina is glad to have her living room back.

For this pinewood event we had each decided to build a car. We actually wound up building four cars (they're just fun to build). So that gave us an extra car to experiment with. When we found out that we'd have access to the track the day before we gave Samuel the option of choosing the fastest of the four we had built.

One thing we did discover during the time we had access to the track was that one lane (the red lane / lane #1) had a tendency to allow the car to jump track. It was also consistently producing slower times than the other three lanes. Lane two (the blue lane) was also proving to be the fastest lane.

Lanes are assigned at registration, and being "lucky" Samuel was assigned the Red lane! Grrr... not a happy moment, but we knew his car was fast - hopefully fast enough to overcome a lane disadvantage. But my bigger fear was that if it did come off the track it might be damaged.

Races were run four cars at a time, and the best four times from each division raced for their final placings - the winner advancing to the final event where they race the cars from the other divisions.

On to the first race!

First time down the track... Samuel's car derails! Rats!!!! Sure, if a car derails they re-run the race, but it's hard on the nerves. Second time down the track Samuel's car turns a 2.66 second run and wins that race qualifying for the finals. My heartrate slows, Samuel is stoked.

Race 2

This time we've got lane 3 (green lane). It's not a bad lane, but up to this point we hadn't seen anyone jump track there. Samuel's car easily wins this race guaranteeing him a spot in the Final Event.

Final Race

Samuel gets the green lane again. The other two cars he's up against have been quick, both getting times in the high 2.6s. The cars come down at blinding speeds and it's close - really close. Times posted: 2.664, 2.675, and 2.683 - just hundredths of seconds between them. Samuel wins! He's excited, we all were - parents, grandparents, friends.

Samuel also got 3rd place in design, so he brought home three trophies!

The part you've been waiting for...

So I know, you're wondering. What happened with your car and Tina's car? Remember we had access to the track so we had opportunity to see how it was all going to turn out. Her car was faster every time we ran it. Oh, it wasn't a lot faster - just faster. I think if I'd have been able to run in the blue lane I might have had a better chance, but she beat me. I'll have to live with that for the rest of the year.

It was a fun day. Samuel's win helped, but honestly, there's just something fun about building these little cars and letting the run down the track that makes for a lot of good feelings. If you have a child that's 3 years old through the 5th grade and you and there's an Awana program near you - get involved, regardless of if they do the Grand Prix or not.