SUI GENERIS punk rock bike shop home-brew art/craft love

In treble and bass we trust

I always have the radio on when I'm driving, so the silence of bicycle commuting took some getting used to. Now that I'm comfortable in the saddle and my mind can drift a little, I find that songs pop into my head every time I ride. A startling variety of music, at that. Punk, metal, and hip-hop songs are the most common, though; something about riding a bike must bring those genres to the forefront of my mind.

J thought it was weird, so I wondered if any other bike riders have experienced this phenomenon. Tell me, fellow cyclers, am I the only one? Or do beats and lyrics appear unsolicited in your head when you're biking around town? What's your bicycle soundtrack?

Categories: bicycles

Sweet dreams

I was sleep-blogging last night. I came up with a great post idea, just as I was drifting off to sleepy land, and mentally wrote out to two paragraphs. Now, I can't remember what it was about. While my head was stewing in creative juices last night, there's just nothing there this morning. I should have written it down.

Actually, I do all my best creative work at night. When I've got a novel in my head especially I can't help but brainstorm on it as I lie in bed. The problem is that once I get up, turn on the light, and start writing in my notebook, I'm not getting back to sleep for a long time.

I don't like losing material, but I also don't like losing sleep. During last year's NaNoWriMo, I did all my writing late at night and it killed my schedule for getting any work done before noon at my day job. What's an aspiring writer to do? If I ever hit it big as a novelist and make writing my full time job, I'll be going totally nocturnal.

Categories: writing

Feel that way mood h4xx0r3d

I'm feeling a real kinship lately with some of the bike bloggers I read on a regular basis. A Flower Called Nowhere has a recent post that hit close to home. Annie and I both, it turns out, hate the State Fair, Applebee's, and Woodbury, MN. Sascha is anti-wallpaper and pro-paint, and writes about something that I've been longing for lately: a place to call home.

Then, of course, there are bloggers with whom I have real-life collaboration. This guy is heading up a small team of volunteers, including me, who will be keeping the Sibley Bike Depot open for one additional night every week. It's going to be great for the shop to stay accessible and give us extra time to do the odd jobs that need to be done.

On that note, I was excited this morning to see that there are bids on all four of the 3-speed bicycles I posted on eBay! But with good news comes bad: the shop's website,, has apparently been hacked. Crap.

Overheard by the coffee pots this morning

"Did you do anything fun this weekend?"
"I went to the State Fair!"
"The State Fair? I asked if you did anything fun."

Literary Paris

Since I can't learn French fast enough to be any good while I'm there, I figured that I might as well read books about France. Maybe I can learn something about it and get into a Parisian frame of mind. Books by the French, American expatriots, or others who lived there are all up for grabs. I've recently read:

Debord's The Society of the Spectacle
Camus' The Plague
Kerouac's Satori in Paris
Réage's Story of O
and a bunch of Hemingway and probably other stuff I'm forgetting.

Tentatively on the to-be-read-if-I-have-time pile:

Orwell's Down and Out in Paris
Balzac's Wrong Side of Paris
Baudrillard's The Illusion of the End
Thompson's Carnet de Voyage

Got any recommendations for reading material that should be on this list? Some books that I want to read have already been pushed back, like Sartre's Being and Nothingness. Don't be afraid to make my wishlist unwieldy. If I don't read it before going to France, I'll probably read it afterwards, so fire away!

Categories: books

Après le déluge

It was worth the price of gas to drive into work this morning. Rain was dumping down--I got wet just looking at it. The tires of my car were sinking in the mud and so did my shoes when I ran out to it, but I was drenched anyway. The thunder and lightning was incredible. One of the brightest and loudest I've ever seen/heard struck while J and I were still in bed. J and Lola both jumped.

The storm was great. I knew I couldn't bike twelve miles in it, so I sat around and played on the computer for a while and waited for it to calm down (it didn't). I love being inside during thunderstorms, watching the flashes of light, listening to the loud cracks and rumbles outside. The rain clobbering our roof and windows. I didn't want to go anywhere.

Now I'm at work and just blah. Maybe the storm will still be going when I get home!

Bicycles for sale

Four bike auctions on ebay! I am trying to help the Sibley Bike Depot reduce their excess inventory by selling some vintage English 3-speeds. I rode down to the shop last night to get set up with an official email address and PayPal account information, and after an hour of fiddling around with ebay and image hosting, I was in business. You can see them if you want. Buy one yourself, or tell your friends!

Here is one of them, a 1964 Raleigh Sports:

I am sure you will be filled with regret for all your years unless you also look at all of the others!

Categories: bicycles

An anniversary fit for a king!

J and I had a great romantic first anniversary night at Millenium Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. The hotel is on the south end of Nicollet Mall and we had a great view for watching the pretty track bikes and fixies roll on by.

We had dinner at King and I Thai right around the corner. J ordered the fried rice and I ordered the Pad Thai, both with mock duck. Our server took the order quickly, got us water, and the food came out really fast. After that, he was not very good at stopping by to pick up our food and bring a bill, although he was very attentive to the two cute tattooed girls who were seated at the table across from us!

I wanted authentic Thai taste, so I requested my Pad Thai to be made 'spicy' (3 on a scale of 4, between 'medium' and 'Thai spicy'). It was too spicy for my bland Midwestern palate to handle, but it was so good that I kept eating it, even though I couldn't breathe very well or see through my tears. Eventually, J made me give up on my meal and I finished off her fried rice.

Back at the hotel we took a bath, drank champagne, went to bed early and slept in. It was my best anniversary ever! (And I do recommend King and I for the food, but the service was spotty--as I had been warned in advance of our visit).

Vélo'v: bicycle P2P

There's an article at Wired about a new short-term bicycle rental system in France. I found it timely because a group from Duluth recently visited St. Paul and asked the Minnesota Bicycle-Pedestrian Alliance for assistance with a similar (but lower-tech and smaller scale) bike sharing project.

As the Wired article notes, these free lending systems must rely on the basic goodness of the human race in order to succeed, which is why they almost invariably fail. Nonprofits run out of money. Bicycles are stolen or intentionally destroyed.

The program in Lyon, a "P2P network for bikes," aims to circumvent these issues by means of credit card deposits, alarms, and microchips. Many people are curious to see whether they will succeed. The network analogy is an interesting one, because it brings to mind a fundamental axiom of computing: no matter how secure you try to make the system, someone will find a way to hack it.

Categories: bicycles

The Corrections*

*Disclaimer: this post isn't really about bikes, or the Jonathan Franzen novel.

After cursing at my rear dérailleur for weeks, I finally fixed it yesterday. I went to Sheldon Brown's site, read a few paragraphs about index shifting, and turned my adjusting barrel one click clockwise. Now the bike shifts perfectly. I wonder why I waited so long to do something about it. All of my recent drivetrain woes could have been avoided by making this simple adjustment two months ago!

How many things in our lives are going awry, and yet for some reason or another, we don't do anything about it? How many of our ongoing problems could be solved with a simple fix, if only we would take the time to do something about it, instead of just complaining about it?

I think of friendships that slipped away because I didn't make a phone call or write a letter -- jobs I hate but stay in because I am too lazy to apply for a new one -- opportunities lost because I procrastinated and missed a deadline -- what's the deal? Is it just me or is this another human condition thing? I resolve from here on out to increase my awareness of easy solutions to my "difficult" problems and do what I can right now to improve my life.

Categories: life, bicycles

A few of my favorite things (AM commute)

Riding through a cloud, with the atmospheric moisture flecking my glasses and cooling my face -- the alarm clock going off every morning that I can hear for the length of an entire city block -- the soft thick shroud of fog floating over Forest Cemetary -- feeling fasting and tougher than I did yesterday or the day before that -- taking undiscovered winding shortcuts through parks thick with trees and dead with silence -- racing through lights with traffic on the last half-mile -- parking my bike by the door and knowing that I get to do it all over again in eight and a half hours.

Categories: life, bicycles

desk job doldrums

I need to quit my job. I can't quit my job.

Just finished a cover letter, resume and writing sample package. Maybe this will be the magic bullet that gets me out of this dead-end nerve-wracking soul-crushing place. I'm going to bed now. Forecast for tomorrow: "dangerous afternoon t-storm." Sounds like great biking weather.

2003 Georges Duboeuf Juliénas

Billed as a red wine for people who don't like red wine, Beaujolais doesn't disappoint. I drank some Regnie from the 2002 vintage and enjoyed it. 2003 was a banner year for the region, so I made sure to pick up a couple of bottles and try them for comparison. At just over $10, this wine is a great value!

It's light and fruity and just fun to drink. We had it with some homemade pesto and bowtie noodles. Never before have I been so aware of a wine pairing; something in that sauce popped when combined with the taste of the wine. I'm going to buy a few more bottles of this vintage while I still can, unless it's already too late. Red wine doesn't get any more approachable than this.

Categories: wine

These guys are probably insane...

...but it looks like they know how to throw a party. Brooklyn's Black Rebel Bike Club in a short film called Bike Kill. Obstacle courses, derby, bike tossing, and (my personal favorite) tallbike jousting. Watch and be amazed.

Sui Generis is good at dealing with people

I took a few of those job-matching surveys in high school that were supposed to reveal my ideal career (they always made some impractical suggestion like "artist," or "writer"). One question I always had trouble with was, "would you rather work with people or computers?" It's a very important question. You can tell because of its binary nature. The problem was that I had no distinct preference for one over the other; I like working with both. In fact, I think that in my current job it is more rewarding to work with people, and more enjoyable to work alone on my computer.

When I do data entry type stuff or routine jobs, I can plug in my headphones and rock out, and that's awesome. Plus, if I'm writing correspondence or designing spreadsheets or powerpoint presentations, I want to do it myself. But it's also good to have friendly and competent coworkers nearby. I like having backup. And when we get together on a group project and accomplish something huge, I feel really satisfied.

I started college with a Computer Science major but switched after a semester because I was worried that working on the computer would be all I ever did. I wanted a real human connection too. I need a good balance between the two polar ends. I'm still trying to find it.

Categories: work

Sweet closure!

I checked the mail when I got home and what do you know. The University of MN informed me with regret that "the 2004 entering class has been selected and no further offers of admission will be made." Okay, but--wait. 2004? Well! Anyway, that's all she wrote, folks, I'm officially and finally not going to law school. How nice to settle it all on one day.

Categories: law school

Good bye, law school

For the record. One-half of my waitlist schools began classes today and I did not receive a panicked phone call requesting my immediate presence in Virginia. Them's the breaks. I'll keep kickin' it in MN for now. I am okay with that. Sui Generis is "down" with the Midwest.

Our upstairs neighbor B. moved out this weekend and returned to her law school, too. It is like the end of an era! The exciting thing about all this is the 0L bloggers are becoming 1Ls and will hopefully find time to tell me all about it so that I can live vicariously through them. Thanks peeps.

Even with law school on the rocks, there may be some big changes pending in my life. It's a tumultuous time at my office, job-security-wise. With layoffs on the near horizon, will I be packing my boxes and hitting the job application trail again? Stay tuned to find out!

Categories: law school, work

When it rains, it pours

Everything happened on this morning's commute. Usually my morning rides are very uneventful. Today I left a few minutes early and my trip was action-packed!

It started out with the uncanny brightness. It's been so dark lately that I checked my watch to make sure I hadn't accidentally set the alarm for 7 instead of 6. Sure enough, it was just really light out. There were people all up and about on streets that are always dead and quiet. Car alarms were going off, the lids were left off of water pipes in the street, it was madness!

Then the bike trouble started. I threw my chain way out over the front cogs, so I had to break a link to get it back together. I did it the stupid way. It felt like it took about ten or fifteen minutes to finish and my fingers were solid black with grease by the time I was done. Good thing I lubed and cleaned the chain last night! Once I finished, I rode another few miles through some torn-up construction zone streets and got a front flat. I rode as far as I could while it slowly leaked and dismounted later than I should have and turned the corner and walked the last half-mile to work, enjoying the beautiful weather and the clear blue skies.

Categories: bicycles

Scott Pilgrim is awesome!

Along with wine reviews, book reviews are something I used to do fairly regularly. Then I realized that I didn't have much to say about most of them beyond whether I liked or disliked them, and nobody cares about that. But you will care when I tell you about Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life. Why? Because it is totally awesome.

The reason I am so excited about it is that Scott Pilgrim was written and drawn (I guess you would call it a graphic novel) by Brian O'Malley. I found his website way back in the day and dug his style and checked in on him every once in a while to see what he was up to. It is fun to see someone who was just a guy drawing Internet comic strips with a Sharpie who has actually produced a real life book that I can hold in my hands.

Anyway, the book is really good! It is about Scott Pilgrim's romantic foibles and totally sweet fights. It is about boys and girls growing up and figuring each other out. It is videogames and rock & roll. You will laugh and cry and learn to live again. Go to the official site to get a taste.

Categories: books

Wine Blogging Wednesday

It's been a while since I talked about wine. Great concept via Dr. Vino: I'm getting back in the game with a post on the theme of locally-produced wine. I don't know of any vineyards in the Twin Cities, but near my grandparents' house-on-a-lake there's a serious contender known as the Carlos Creek Winery. They maintain the largest grape vineyard in Minnesota, so they're a natural choice for sampling the full range of local flavors.

I visited a few weeks ago for the tour and free tastings. Sample pours are apparently offered on an all-you-can-drink policy, which I took advantage of by having a taste of nearly every wine on the menu. I gaffed by trying the port and icewine early on, but quickly recovered and sensibly made my way through the standard whites. None really jumped out at me, but neither was anything remarkably foul; it all struck me as simply passable.

Most of the reds were nothing to write home about, either. During the tour, however, we tried some Cabernet Sauvignon from the aging barrels. I drank some of the bottled stuff upstairs afterwards and liked it a lot. They also produce several tasty apple wines. In addition to the winery and tasting room, there's plenty of other stuff to see while there, such as an art gallery, maze, and the world's cleanest horse stable, and even 2- and 4-seater bicycle contraptions that you can hop on and pedal around the orchards. Overall, more than worth the trip if you're in the area.

Categories: wine


I didn't know what I was doing when I bought my Bianchi Strada in May except that I wanted to start biking and I needed a bike to do it. In hindsight, I might have bought something different, and someday I'd like a throughbred road bike for fun rides. For commuting, however, my hybrid bicycle has mutated into something that meets all my needs and some of my wants. Hey, if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with!

When I bought the Batavus Monte Carlo, the first thing I did was to remove the rear rack it had on and transfer it to my Bianchi. Then Tom at the Sibley Bike Depot gave me an extra water bottle cage he wasn't using. With two water bottles, full fenders, and a rack, it's a great commuter/tourer that I could ride almost anywhere.

Along the way I added a blinky light in back and little headlight in the front, and a saddlebag to hold my emergency toolkit. After my fortuitous acquisition of cheap cycling shoes, I eventually got around down to County Cycles and picked up a new pair of Shimano M-520 clipless pedals. Lastly, I used my Sibley member's discount to order Salsa bar ends for extra hand positions. And that's where I'm stopping. I swear.

Categories: bicycles

Pimp my Fahrrad!

When I bought my first bike, I thought it fit in well with my philosophy of simplification. As it turns out, the more I get into cycling, the more I want to acquire different bicycles and biking paraphernalia. I never cared enough about my car--or cars in general--to obsess about buying a new vehicle or even consider attempting to "pimp it out," as the kids say. But my bicycle is a different story.

I guess I just didn't count on falling in love with bikes. Now I'm hooked, and I'm trying not to go overboard, but it's so easy to justify these little purchases (to myself, I mean--my wife is another story). After all, this bike is my vehicle. I use it to get to work every day, so I want it to be nice. And think of the money I'm saving on gas!

I'd like to call it quits and be content with what I have. But that's so hard to do when each new purchase affirms itself by improving the safety, comfort, or functionality of my bike! The real issue is that my bike is changing to meet my needs as I learn what those needs are through on-the-road experience. I imagine that I'll eventually reach a point where I know enough to buy a bike that meshes perfectly with my lifestyle. In the meantime, I'm working with what I've got. Tomorrow, I'll talk about the changes I've made to my commuter bike during this learning interval.

Categories: bicycles

Clipless in St. Paul

I installed clipless pedals this week. For non-cyclists, these are a lock-and-cleat system that allow the pedal and shoe to snap together. This allows me to apply power by pulling up as well as pushing down, thus making me twice as powerful! Okay, not twice as much. But it did make a noticeable difference. Namely, my right knee hurts a lot. I need to adjust that cleat before the ride home.

As cyclists know, the main drawback to clipless is the falling-over. They only disengage by swinging your ankle out sideways, and not by, say, pulling up and kicking in a panic when you realize that you've stopped and are starting to tip over and both your feet are locked to your bike and you have nothing to put on the ground for leverage and--CRASH.

Luckily, this hasn't happened to me yet, but I hear it happens at least once to everyone who goes clipless. Sooner or later, you fall, and it will probably be at the least opportune time. People will see, and they will laugh at you. There's nothing you can do except stand up and get back on the bike.

Categories: bicycles, life


"If you hate your job, you don't quit. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That's the American Way."

--Homer J. Simpson

Join the official SG fan club!

I was remiss in adding my email address and profile information to the sidebar. In fact, I thought it was already there until last night when I remembered that, nope, I forgot to do it. How could I be so blind?

The greatest part of blogging is an open flow of communication. In that spirit, I encourage you to shoot me off an email if you've never said "hi" before and don't want to leave a comment for all to see. Don't think that Sui Generis will spurn your email just because he is an international superstar. I always love to hear from my readers and make new friends.

Go ahead, don't be shy. Shine a little light on me. I promise to incandesce right back atcha.

Is there a meteorologist in the house?

Can anyone tell me why the hottest days this summer have also been so very windy? I suspect it has something to do with fronts, but I wouldn't know anything about that. Sui Generis always tells the truth and never fronts one bit. So you can believe me when I say that yesterday afternoon's commute was by far the most dangerous, difficult one I've ever done.

But, I did get to do my favorite trick of getting passed by an impatient driver who squealed his tires in a rush to pass me and then catchin up with him a couple of blocks later at the inevitible traffic snarl. I couldn't take it personally, though, because his driving was insane overall.

Man and the heat was so hot I forgot how I planned to end this... I had a nice three-paragraph post all planned out and now it's gone. Oh well... check out this awesome tall bike on Craig's List, instead. Meltdown weather some would say, there's a cure for this disease, go and ride a bicycle, sweat out your impurities.

Categories: bicycles

Taste Sensation

Two of our best friends stopped by for dinner last night on their way from Wisconsin to their new home in Seattle. To celebrate, we went out to the awesome Sakura restaurant in St. Paul. I realized that we had lived "in the city" for over two months and never made it to this part of downtown in all that time. I'm a fraud.

When I was in Japan, my favorite soft drink was a bizarre milky-sweet soda called Calpis. I attempted in vain to find this delicious concoction when I returned to the States. After combing all the Asian food marts in Minnesota, I gave up hope of ever drinking it again. There didn't even seem to be anyone who sold it online. I stocked up during a visit to Uwajimaya in Seattle, but my supply quickly ran dry and I was back in Calpis-less MN.

I was sad. That is, until a friend took me to dinner at Sakura and we discovered that they serve Calpis. Just a sip and it brings me back to Japan. It's crazy how a little thing can bring back the memories: smelling incense, hearing a certain ringtone, looking at photos, feeling the texture of a treasured object. For me, the taste of Calpis is a strong trigger. Maybe it's a good thing that I drink it only rarely. Too often and the effect would be dulled. This way keeps the memories strong and fresh. As long as I have these things to remind me, I will never forget.

Categories: life

Why I don't read the newspaper

Leave it to a blogger to provide some facts for a change while the city rag prints ignorant opinions. Here's the final word on scofflaw bicycles v. innocent motorists. Thinking about it only makes me angry so I'm not going to post about it anymore. Breaking the law is bad, okay? Whether you're driving a car or riding a bike. Don't generalize and broadcast your hatred over either group, just be nice to each other and watch out for the idiots (bikers or drivers) who are trying to kill themselves and others.

Categories: bicycles