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

Norwegian Wood / on the job

Tomorrow is the first day of my new temp job, but just for fun, I went today! Actually, I thought this was my first day. Luckily, once I got there, they found something for me to do and put me to work. Then, I waited... and waited... while they attempted to set up my computer with the software I needed to do the other stuff they wanted me to do. Between that time and my bus rides, I read all of Murakami's Norwegian Wood today. It was a great book, but it put me in a weird funk for the rest of the day. Sorry I didn't show up at the bike shop, John. I tried to call, but nobody answered.

Also, I've gone back and started to categorize my posts for reference. This one falls into the categories: work, books

Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon

Introducting, just in time for Halloween, the Sui Generis wine of the month for October! This spicy, tasty red is produced by Vampire vineyards in Transylvania. We enjoyed it at our party last night along with a fondue dinner. I'll bet it went really well with the steak; I stuck to beer-battered mushrooms and cauliflower, myself.

The wine was nothing spectacular, in my opinion, but it was roundly average. And that's not a bad thing! An average wine at a low price (only $7 at Liquor Depot in Minneapolis) adds up to a great bargain buy. That means you've got enough time to pick up a bottle before All Hallow's Eve and celebrate the holiday with a suitably spooky drink without shelling out a scary amount of cash. Enjoy!

Categories: wine

Knitting practice squares

Get a load of that ribbing! There is some grade A needlework, if I do say so myself. Good thing nobody ever gets tired of knitting posts. At least now you've got some fun photo evidence of what I've been up to lately, which is always more interesting than just reading about it. I've been using a lot more images lately. Have you noticed? I'm on a visual kick. I hope it lasts.

Sui Generis knitting club: video resources

In which Sui Generis learns to knit like a man! Because real men knit. You knew that right? Okay then. For day one of self-taught knitting, I biked to Michael's for some fat needles (Takumi bamboo 9mm) and chunky wool. I decided to make a scarf. It's supposed to be a good first project, because there's nothing to it other than adding one row after another until you've got something long enough to be called a scarf.

There's nothing to make me feel sheepish (wool pun! ha ha!) faster than learning something new. Even with a book and the entire Internet at my fingertips, I had the greatest trouble just getting started. I couldn't figure out whether the instructions were retarded, or I was. Making a slipknot was easy enough, but for the life of me I did not understand the technique of casting on until I found this handy video site.

After that, it was cake. Until I attempted to do a row of ribbing. Oh well, I suppose I just need to learn one thing at a time.

Work, work, work

I spent Tuesday morning jumping through hoops for a contract job that begins today. It was ridiculous busywork for me since I'm just going back to a company where I have worked for the past two years, but the Adecco office lady insisted that I fill out all their crap. She had me take a survey with statements about employee loyalty which I made sure to answer with all the wrong responses.

After that wearisome rigamarole was over, I got a haircut and peed in a cup (at different locations!). The pee was for the contract job drug test, and the haircut was for an interview for a full-time job that went really well in my opinion. I enjoyed talking to the interviewer, who would be my boss if I got the job, and the position sounds really exciting. I thik I have a chance at this one!

I spent the late afternoon at my parents' place again, helping my dad to load a rented dumpster with what was formerly the basement walls. Just as we were carrying up the last of it, the sunset cast the clouds in a brilliant orange-tinted pink for just a few minutes. To celebrate my day, I stopped by the local liquor store for a six-pack of Blue Moon and a clearance bottle of Chilean Merlot. My contract position begins this afternoon (probably--I'm waiting on a phone call) but until then, I'll be practicing my knitting! Time to pick up some yarn.

Categories: work

Zero degree Celcius biking

I need to start packing chapstick in my saddle bag! It was nippy on the way back from the bike shop last night. I didn't get cold so much as the thin, dry air made it difficult to breathe and my throat was burning after only a mile or two. Pretty weak if you ask me.

UPDATE/REVISION: I think I scared people away with that browser crash talk, but you really shouldn't miss this hillarious British short at Lucky Kazoo. While you're there, make sure you also watch the techno remix of an advert for cleaning product Cillit Bang. It will stick in your head and you will love me for sharing it.

...and the dirt is gone!


Here's another one of the stuffed animals that I made and gave away a few years ago. This is my good good friend Jhenn cuddling a punk rock kitten that I made for her. It's a very tuff kitten, as you can tell by the ear piercings and safety-pinned black dress w/ root beer bottlecap pin. It is probably the best stuffed animal I ever made. Although I did make an purse/creature that's even softer and more complicated. Photo coming soon(?)!

Energy + Spatula = utinsil disaster

Due to a cooking accident, one of my favorite utinsils is no longer with me. I was making a grilled cheese sandwich with roasted peppers, and when I reached out to press it down into the pan, my old spatula just snapped in half! It gave me many good flips before it flopped. Here's to you, spatula.

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Speaking of spatulas, I had my first taste of Chimay Ale this weekend. Chimay is a Belgian beer brewed in a Trappist monastery since 1862. They add yeast for a second fermentation that creates a little bit of sediment and makes the cork pop off like a bottle of Champagne. This alone made it worth trying at least the one time. The beer is really good, but for the steep price, it's not so good that I would buy it on a regular basis (say, more than once a year). Still, Chimay would make a great "gift" beer; maybe I'll buy my father-in-law a bottle of it for Christmas this year.

Knit night: Sui Generis gets crafty!

I thought about sewing up some new stuffed animals, but my plans changed when I saw the adorable knitted robots, zombies, and pillow creatures that people are making.* I had to learn to knit! My lovely and talented wife J taught me a basic stitch, and I was working away until I ran out of yarn. I didn't accomplish much, because it takes forever, but I learned an important lesson tonight. Knitting is fun!

*Also, many crocheted octopi.

Sui Generis sews

One of many things I've only touched on so far in this blog is the fact that I fancy myself a bit of an artist. Recently, I've been trying to write fiction, but I was primarily a visual artist back in the days I was really productive. The Etsy/Voodoo Plush post reminded me of my own stuffed creations, and I thought that you might enjoy seeing them.

These are two of the animals that I made: Suture Bunny and Wiggly Legs. Suture Bunny is the one on the left, who does not look like a bunny (but whose mouth is, in fact, sutured shut). Wiggly Legs is the one who looks like a bunny but whose legs don't wiggle. I'm not very good at naming things. I did enjoy making them, though.

Big Bonsai in Manhattan

It's old news, but this man-made "floating island" is a very interesting project. As an inaccessible, uninhabited chunk of nature, it's like a life-size bonsai landscape arrangement. The NYT has the article (use if you're not registered) and make sure you watch the movie just to see this guy and his most excellent bow tie.

The days are just packed

What? Thursday already? What have I been up to all week that the time flies so quickly? I'm glad you asked! The highlight of my week so far was reading Blankets from cover to cover on Tuesday night. It was so good that I couldn't get to sleep for a half-hour afterwards.

I biked up to Roseville yesterday to help my dad disassemble his basement. That was fun work. As we tore down the walls, centipedes, spiders, and all manner of creepy-crawlies came pouring out of their newly exposed dens. Really put me in the mood for Halloween! The bike ride, however, was windy and cold. My ears hurt. Time to shop for a balaclava and full-fingered gloves.

When J got home, we drove to Minneapolis to look at a really cool house. There are any number of reasons why this is a bad time for us to actually purchase a home, but touring this one was just for fun. Then we stopped at another house to pick up a free stool that was advertised on Craig's List. To celebrate for my day of work and exercise, I insisted on a visit to Surdyk's. Hey, we were in the area. I bought one bottle of Rogue Dead Guy Ale and one of Chimay. Finally I can see what all the fuss is about!

Anaheim harvest time

Spicy! Our tiny neglected urban garden plot produced some food after all. These peppers were hiding within the plants, and we hadn't checked in so long that we assumed there was nothing there. Sure enough, we started looking and found a bounty of green veggies. Now I just need to find a way to use them all before they go bad.

Full moon madness?: 7th St. singlespeed lunacy

Last night while working at the bike shop I agreed to be treasurer for the MBPA. John said they needed one, so I volunteered. Whatever it takes to keep this organization going. Since I don't have a paying job, it's an especially good time for me to do work for a nonprofit group like this one. It makes me feel like my time is valuable and that I'm contributing to something greater than myself.

Plus, it gets me on my bike, and physical exercise is another important stimuli to keep from drifting down into a jobless torpor. So, my spirits are still high. Even if some of the jobs I'm applying for look like they may be giant leaps backward, at least I'm forging ahead with my personal life and individual goals. Ganbaremasu!

Etsy handmade products

I love the little handcrafted creatures that are sold at! They are adorable, and many are very reasonably priced, when you consider the personal attention that is given to each item. Some, like this VooDoo Plushie from No Punch Backs, ooze with the smarmy cute Japanese style sensibility that I cannot get enough of. I bet I know someone who would like this for Christmas!

The cruel tutelage of Typer Shark

I'm not playing--I'm training. Sooner or later on this job hunt I'll need to pass a typing test with a standard QWERTY layout, which means that I need to re-learn it. Learning Dvorak was tough, but rewarding, beacause I was mastering a better system and doing something new. Now, on the contrary, I'm moving backwards and having to remember a nonsensical and more difficult layout of keys. At least I have a new job as my motivation to stick with it.

Of course, it makes sense that the switch back would be awkward, given that the QWERTY layout was originally designed to slow down typists to prevent the typewriter's keys from sticking together. Why we still insist on teaching it as a standard for computing in this country is beyond me. We're only intentionally handicapping ourselves to international competition in this regard. Don't even get me started on the metric system!

Lycoperdon perlatum?

Very common and widely distributed collective species (with many variations) found on humus as well as on wood in late summer and fall . . . Edible, and one of the best small puffballs.

--The Mushroom Hunter's Field Guide, by Smith & Smith Weber
I didn't eat any because I'm wary of the dangers of incorrect mushroom identification, but it looks like a fairly distinctive species; maybe next year I'll return and pick a few to try. Since today is nature geek day, also check out MoonDock, a pretty desktop phase display for OS X; and the online Calculator Cat module (as seen at Mental Multivitamin).

Friday Fun: search strings that led to me

batavus monte carlo: see here for my visual history of a single-speed conversion. It's a nice bike and there's not much information about them on the English internets.

bianchi bicycles strada
(also bianchi strada, review): my Strada is of an indeterminate age, but one thing I know for sure is that it's a great bike for commuting. The new Stradas look lighter and racier; mine's a tough middle-of-the-road streetfighter. Oh, there is one good thing about the new bikes: they come standard with bullhorns. Sweet.

: I think you're looking for this. NaNaWriMo is National Naval Writing Month.

bike kill
: it's here and it's still awesome. Jousting? Yes please!

sui generis shop bike
(also sui generis shop motorbike): hey if one of you finds the place, could you come back here and let me know where is this sui generis shop? Sounds like my kind of place.

: still?

review decathlon cruiser bike
: my advice is to stay away from it; the ones I saw in Paris looked cheap. Then again, they could have been hiding the high-end models somewhere I couldn't find them. In any event, try before you buy.

sui generous: I'm heartened that so many 1Ls are learning to spell Latin terms of art from this site. I may not have gotten into law school, but never let it be said that I didn't contribute to legal education in the nation.

sui generis lyrics: My Spanish-singing musical counterpart (a.k.a. "Unknown") strikes again! Toma dos Blues.

what does see you in the funny papers mean?: after a while, crocodile.

Simple days, better times.

You have found a mushroom. What do you want to do?


The mushroom is poisonous. You have died. Play again? (Y/N)

Remember when death was so abstract and reversible? (Oh, he's still on about this.) I think most kids in America are fortunate enough that they don't need to truly grasp the implications of death at a very young age. For me and the other little video game players, we died hundreds of times a day and it was undoable just by pressing Y.

Then we grew up and learned that death in the real world is serious, final, and to be avoided--that we should take care to protect our own lives and never threaten the lives of others. Or at least most of us learned that. The scariest thing about my recent local high school murders is how the kids did not seem to understand the gravity of what they were doing. They didn't take any precautions to avoid being seen or caught. As if they were immortal and invincible. But of course they were seen, and caught, and very likely they will have a long time to think about what happened, and to grow up.

Categories: life

Really, really bad news

A student at my old high school allegedly murdered his parents with the help of his friends. Afterwards, he went grocery shopping and walked home to get ready for the homecoming dance. CREEPY. Then he and his friends were arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

I didn't want to write about that, but I can't think of anything else to say with that news hanging on me. My little brother is a student at that school now. Although he doesn't personally know the suspects, he does have friends who were friends with them and this is a tough time for all of them.

Plus, how would you feel if you were these kids' dates? Imagine if they had made it to homecoming and you danced with them and whatnot, and then they were arrested for murder. The mind reels. I don't know what to say. I'm done.

The first draft of anything is shit.

Some time ago, after finagling my first novel into more-or-less finished form, I found an editor's blog that offered free evaluation of one opening chapter in exchange for permission to post it on his blog with comments and suggestions for all the world to see. I was thrilled. Finally, an expert to validate my genius! I emailed him with the opening of my novel and waited for praise. He wrote back (I'm paraphrasing here), "it sucks. It sucks hard."

That stung. But it was exactly what I needed to hear. And in fact, he was more tactful than that, and complimented me on the things that I did right. What I got from him that was invaluable, though, were the frank explanations of what I'd done wrong and his ideas for how to make it right.

I read somewhere (I wish I could remember where) that when Hemingway finished his first draft of The Sun Also Rises, mentor Gertrude Stein told him to "start over, and this time, pay attention." He did, and ended up with a pretty good book in the end. The quote in this post's title is Hemingway's. If he can say so about his own work then it certainly holds true for me and any apprentice author. Not that getting a rough draft down is easy work, but it's only the first step in a long process. The hard part is the editing alchemy of turning shit to gold.

Categories: writing

Dvorak bites me in the ass

Although learning the new keyboard layout has done wonders for my wrists and typing speed, it really puts me in a bad spot with job testing. I can't type in QWERTY worth crap anymore. I tried; I sucked. I felt stupid enough going into a temp office today, but then with a sub-30wpm score I really felt like a tool. That's the only drawback to Dvorak--having to explain it to someone else. Just put me on the computer and I'll change the setting in a second. Sorry, bub, that's not how it's done.

The temp work is just a stopgap measure while I continue looking for a real job. I won't bore you with any more details today. Staying home all day isn't the total blast I thought it would be, but it sure beats going to work!

Hit a rut, goalsetting strategies

Mysterious front-wheel flats are keeping me off my bike, and not having a job is keeping me busy with job applications and (hopefully soon) interviews. It's important to have a plan of action. I agreed with J on some extra responsibilities that I'd pick up around the house. Usually we share the chores pretty evenly--although I know we both feel at times that we are getting an unfair share of the burden!

This morning I got the heat working. I'm cleaning up in between making calls to prospective employers. Later I'll go grocery shopping, since I promised to cook a real dinner every day that I'm unemployed. This goal is as fun for me as it is hopefully rewarding to J; I love to cook, but it's one of the things that fell by the wayside after marriage and other responsibilities crept into our lives.

The daily grind makes it too easy to lose sight of what we really want. At least, I've found that to be the case. I'm taking advantage of my jobless time to refocus on living the life that I want to live.

Epernay, Champagne -- Moet & Chandon

Harvest time in Champagne: the air was cool, the leaves were changing, the grapes were ripe. It was the perfect time to visit. The platform at Gare L'Est was cold, and I bought hot chocolate and a croissant for breakfast. On the train to Champagne, J napped and I enjoyed the scenery. We disembarked in the town of Epernay and walked straight to the nearest Champagne house, Moet & Chandon.

Compared to the ancient and old-fashioned Burgundy wineries, M & C was a super fancy-pants facility. Together with a bunch of old people and a couple of young snobs, we watched a short video, toured the huge cellars, and ended in a swank tasting room where we each got a glass of tasty Champagne. I got a couple of bonus glasses from the remainders. Score!!

Afterwards, we took a van tour of a family-owned winery (Domi-Moreau) and their vines. This was my favorite part of the vacation. Nathalie, who runs the company with her husband and his parents, was our guide and taught us a lot about Champagne. At the end of the tour, we headed up to their little tasting room for the best part. J told everyone it was our anniversary, so I had to open a bottle in front of everybody. Luckily, I have some experience in that area, so I didn't bruise the bubbles or hit anyone with the cork. The wine was really good and I bought three bottles to take home. Now we have something to drink for our next anniversary!

Highlights of the Domi-Moreau tour:

  • Cost of wine land: 1 million Euros per hectare
  • Nathalie owns six hectares, three of which produce grapes that are sold to the major players like Moet & Chandon. Many growers simply sell all their grapes instead of making their own wine, because the demand is so great. Nathalie said, "we produce gold."
  • The land is spread out--their six hectares were mixed in with other people's property. Right next to some anonymous tiny vineyard would be another one owned by Moet & Chandon or Mercier.
  • Gypsies are hired to harvest the grapes. "Why do we hire gypsies?" asked Nathalie. "Not because we like them. It's because they bring their house with them."
  • Co-ops provide wine-making equipment for small growers who can't afford their own. They can even do the entire process themselves, taking your grapes and handing you back bottles of finished Champagne.
  • We tasted some grapes: they had thick, chewy skins and lots of seeds and just a tiny bit of delicious juice.
  • Their bottle-capping machine was broken, so Nathalie showed us the one they were borrowing: it was 100 years old and still functional.
  • Champagne is good!

Categories: wine

Writer's nightmare?

I dreamed that the city of London was being destroyed by a walking pair of giant ballpoint pens. It was a really weird dream, because I've never been to London.

Le vin de Bourgogne est le vin des rois*

The ride out to Dijon-Ville went through rolling hills in fog that made for a scene like a Cloudy Bay label. From Dijon we transferred to a local train that took us to Beaune, where we started off the day with lunch and a glass of wine. Foolishness! I forgot I'd be drinking wine all day. To add insult to injury, I liked my lunch wine better than most of the stuff I tasted later. But we did taste some good wines.

First stop, the cellars of Marché aux Vins. Self-guided tour, 16 bottles of wine to try, which all began to taste the same around #7 or 8. In fact, they were mostly puckery, raisiney wines that dried out my mouth and made me glad for the spittoons. I was a little bit sick of wine by the end of the tour--a personal first--but I sucked it up and we moved on to Patriarche pére et fils for 13 more samples.

The Patriarche was truly incredible and worth the visit. They stocked four or so million bottles of wine in a labyrinthine fifteen square kilometers of cellars (the biggest in Burgundy). I liked the Fleurie so well (despite being the cheapest wine we tasted) that I bought a couple of bottles to take home. It was representative of the dry grapey taste shared by most of the Burgundies I tasted, without being overpowering, and also adding a sweet floral note on top of what was already a lighter, fruitier body compared to its more sour cellarmates at Patriarche and even more so v. the Marché vins, which I found less palatable overall.

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We were done with wines then and wandered around town. Beaune was a healthy-seeming mix of old and new, and we found a working artist's studio with abstract paintings that I really enjoyed (see Alain Seguin's work at a super-crappy website here). Sadly, there were no prints for sale and we couldn't pony up the cash to buy an original. It would have been a bastard to stow in the carry-on bin, anyway.

And that's what we did in Beaune, Burgundy! Tomorrow, God willing and the creek don't rise, I'll tell you a little tale of how we celebrated our first anniversary in Champagne.

Categories: wine, travel

*"The wine of Burgundy is the wine of kings" --Louis XIV

Explicit lyrics, SG in the mix

We had a cracking good thunderstorm last night and a nasty fight. It has been a while since J and I got really mad at each other; it is a good thing for couples to argue and vent some steam now & then. Some would say that periodical scuffles are the common element in all successful long-term relationships. More important than the bickering, though, is the making-up afterwards. If you skip that part then you're in trouble.

All of which just to say that I haven't got around to those France wine posts yet, sorry sorry, I'll do 'em soon. Right now the job search takes precedence and then I've got tons of other chores begging my attention. So.

SG staus update: unemployed as of 8 October, '05. Which means I need a new project (besides job-hunting) to keep me busy. Introducing a warm-up activity for November's NaNoWriMo: the October Three Week Writing, Uh, Project (or ThreWWUP)!! I know, believe it or not, that was the least crappy acronym I could come up with. Little help here? Anyway, I'm going for 60,000 words before this month is over. That should put me in the right frame of mind to shatter last year's record for November.

Categories: life, work, writing


"If all people want is to see something they understand, they shouldn't go to the theater. They should go to the bathroom."

--Bertolt Brecht

In the market for a new Muse

I think mine is broken? Anyway it's been a while since I've heard from her. Sporadically I get some inspiration. Shakespearean poetry novel disaster, creativity is all over the map, missing the bulls-eye by a million meters. Sudden desire again to do The Novel, the big one I put away in a box after slaughtering it last November but it reconstituted reincarnated and grew, magnetically gathering new perspectives and plot arcs and it's slavering to escape--"you can write me better now"--time to surrender. Start over from scratch. See what it's become.

I had other plans, different stories, but I can't move on until this one's told right. Why wait until November? How can I with looming unemployment and screaming ideas poised on the tips of my fingers and the prospect of entire free days alone at home. Shall I project a world?

Categories: writing

A balancing act

I strive for balance in my life. Most people probably do, I assume. Still no matter what I do there's always something out of whack. But I do seem to trade security in one area for insecurity in another; case in point, I quit my job without a backup plan, but we can stay in our house throughout the winter. It was for sale when we moved in, and has apparently been taken off the market as of last weekend. Good to know that I may be unemployed but at least we won't be on the street.

What else is upcoming in the month of ROCKtober? Many exciting things are about to happen!

  • Tomorrow is a very thrilling annual bonsai auction & sale hosted by the MN Bonsai Society. I probably won't buy anything, but it's fun to see all the tiny trees.
  • If you are interested in mushrooms like I suddenly am, than you may want to join me at next Monday's meeting of the Mycological Society!
  • I am working at the Sibley Bike Depot every Monday evening until 8:30. Stop in and say hello.
  • The weekend of the 14th is for the St. Paul Art Crawl. Don't miss it!
  • You will help me get a job. Please.
Also, of course, more Paris posts are due. I still have to tell you about our trips to Champagne and Burgundy. That should just about cover it.

Are you a human being?

You'll have to prove it before you can post comments now.

Over the weekend, this blog was slammed with spam comments for the first time. I deleted all of them manually, but I know that now I've been targeted, I will continue to receive these bogus posts. Rather than disable comments, I have instituted Blogger's "word verification" feature. When you go to leave a comment, you will need to verify your autonomy by typing in a short character string.

Sorry about the hassle, but I really wanted to keep comments, and this will hopefully block the automated spamming systems. I hope it won't deter my dozens of real readers from responding to my posts. Hope to hear from all of you!