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

I'm an inspiration!

My friend (code name: Noria Carvone) was exposed to dangerous levels of enthusiasm when I started knitting. She caught the bug and got into it even harder than I did! Whereas I slacked off after finishing a scarf, wristband, and tiny hat, she continued to prodigiously knit armloads of Christmas presents for her friends and family. She's already put me to shame. I hope she continues to knit and--especially since knitting blogs are notorious for infrequent posting--to keep blogging about it. Go check it out and say hello!


Ca' del Solo vs. Tattoo: Battle of the Big Reds

A dual entry for December's Sui Generis Wine(s) of the Month: Bonny Doon's Ca' del Solo Big House Red, and Two Brothers' Big Tattoo Red. I picked two "big" wines for this big holiday hullabaloo month so that you have double the recommendations for drinks on whatever holiday you choose to celebrate, or not (unless that holiday is already past, in which case you can drink them next year). Except then I waited until most all the Decemberween party days are past, so so much for that idea.

First off was the Big Tattoo Red. This wine had a heady, harsh kind of bouquet with more complexity emerging on day two (holding up over time is an important property for me, since I often have to finish a bottle myself and don't always like to drink it all in one night). The 50-50 mix of Syrah and Cabernet panned out about the way I expected: taste like a regular Cab except spicier and thicker. I drank it with some Burgundy Seitan Noodles that I cooked with the wine, and I found both a bit disappointing. I don't know if I'd buy this wine again.

On the other hand, I greatly enjoyed the Bonny Doon Big House Red. I got this bottle for a buck less than the other wine, which is a 10% savings at this price point and thus a pretty big deal! I didn't get anything from the aroma, but the texture was jammy and yummy. I detected an occasional mild bite; otherwise it was a good grapey, fruity, light taste. Nice purple hue to this wine too. I had it on Thanksgiving with garlic toast and vegan loaf. Delicious.

Winner: Ca' del Solo!


A call for clarity

The water from our drinking fountains at work is opaque. Is there any chance that this is a good thing? Perhaps it is packed with healthy minerals? I am not an expert on the chemistry of fluids. As a precautionary measure, I have switched to tap water from the faucet until I can obtain confirmation on this pressing issue.

Mutant bike link roundup

There's nothing going on at work this week, so I spent yesterday trying to find tallbike information. The Rat Patrol and local Skallywags bike clubs websites provided hours of fun. If our infamous Minneapolis chapter of the Black Label Bike Club has a website I couldn't find it. Chicagofreakbike is a great photo diary too though and they make cameos in all those places.

Didn't find much on actual builds but that's okay because we already have the frame, for what it's worth. I banged the dropouts apart enough to fit in a chunky rear tire with gears for now and another 26" wheel in front. All that's left is a crank & chain & I'll have a functioning tallbike to tool around the neighborhood with. Maybe I can git 'er done before we have more snow on the ground making handling impossible. This weather is unreal. It's supposed to be above freezing again tomorrow and no mention of snow. Freakin' heatwave!


Visions of sugarplums

I woke up no less than three times last night rolling in sticky wet sheets and a body slicked with sweat. Maybe it's my latent gingerbread allergy acting up.

J got a Betty Crocker vegetarian cookbook. Each recipe includes a footnote suggesting a meat to add, which is bizarre beyond belief to me. She sees nothing wrong with it, but I don't want an apologetic, middling cookbook. Just in my opinion, the meal should be complete without meat. Otherwise, what's the point of a 'vegetarian' cookbook? Just take the normal cookbook and leave out the meat, and you've got the same thing.

A vegetarian cookbook that pimps meat additions is like a kosher cookbook with instructions to add shellfish and pork for when your goyim friends come to visit. I want recipes that are Vegan With a Vengeance. There's no need for compromise. Give me recipes for vegetarian food that are so good they could not possibly be improved, and are so good that they will only be ruined by introducing animal parts.

Better than bad, it's good!

Everyone wants a log! This Christmas, J gave me one of my very own. It rolls down stairs, alone or in pairs; rolls over the neighbor's dog. But that is not all this log can do, because it is not just your standard-issue log. It has all the options. It is a log that has been packed to the bark full of Shiitake mushroom mycelia!

That's right--it is a mushroom fruiting log. I didn't ask for one, but my wife knew I would like it because I like growing things and I like to eat mushrooms. What could be better than a log that produces a crop every two months for years and years? I stuck it in our garden snow to shock the mycelia into fruiting. In 1-3 days, little white nubs will start to break through the bark, and after a week my log will have produced a "flush" of fresh, clean, delicious mushrooms. It's the gift that keeps on giving!

Skeptimistic: a stupid word

Just noticed another Google search for "skeptimistic" has led to this site. Listen up, people. Skeptimistic is stupid. It adds nothing to our language that is not already conveyed by the real words that it illegitimately spawned from. I want to go on record as saying that I firmly disapprove of this bastard word. I am dumber for ever having heard it.

Will work for money

I quit my last job in October and I have been working as a full-time contract employee since then, while I continue my hunt for another real job. The last time I was looking for work was a year and a half ago, and I greatly expanded my options this time around. I have applied for work in other cities (never received a response for those applications), and in a wide array of industries and positions.

I have learned a lot during this search. For example, I discovered that there are sod-all decent jobs in the Employment section. All right, I sort of knew this already, but I hoped that I could find something appropriate. And sometimes I do find a job that is a perfect match for my skills and interests, and I get really excited and nervous about it and spend hours perfecting my cover letter and honing my resume so that it is just right. But I learned that when I apply for those ideal jobs, I will never get an interview. Instead, I will get an interview for jobs that I was overqualified for halfway through high school, and then I will not be offered the position.

I have also learned that when someone calls asking, "are you keeping your options open," I know that means they are attempting to rope me in to a "shady, unpaid pseudo-employment scam." I got around to this after a couple of minutes talking to one man when I asked what the salary was. "Oooh," he said, "are you looking for that kind of job?" Yes, I do want that kind of job. I prefer the kind where I know I will get paid. I job that I get paid for and don't hate--is that really so much to ask?


Saint Paul Craftstravaganza!

Oh my holy crap! IT'S ALIVE. Progress in animating the upcoming craft show to end all craft shows, the St. Paul Craftstravaganza, was bumped up today from nonexistant to positively measureable. The excitement is palpable around chez Generis as J and I suddenly have our hands full with venue booking, website design, and crafty contacts who have piped up to offer support and suggestions. Rejoice, Twin Cities craftsters, for the 'stravaganza is on its way!

Holiday shopping list for your favorite cyclist

This is either way too late for 2005 or else super early for 2006. Anyway, here's a collection of bike accessories and whatnots for the one in your life who likes to ride bikes. A/k/a phoning in a post.

  • Surly hip flask. I mentioned this stainless steel beauty before. Not especially bike-related, except Surly makes it and it's "derby approved." So there ya go.
  • Of course you're gonna hold your Surly flask in an Ahearne Cycles bicycle flask holder, right? This company also makes gorgeous wood racks that would be the pride of any practical cycler.
  • Soft reflectors: there are totally places that make shiny velcro strips to replace those plastic reflectors that throw your wheel out of true. And I just saw some messenger co. that makes cute little ones for your handlebars, but now I can't find it again.
  • Soft-core porn! I don't know but someone on Craig's List has been talking up this calendar with photos of "beautiful Minneapolis women & their bikes." Maybe it's up your alley. Don't buy it for me though.

Over the hump

Had an interview yesterday afternoon that went poorly (I think). Christmastime is a bad season for job hunting all around. Hopefully I'll hear from them by February. The good news is I got some shopping done for J. Just need to pick up some stocking stuffers and I'll be done.

I biked down to the Depot and learned how to make deposits, which was fun. So now I'm a real Treasurer and everything. It wasn't too cold last night, but I still need to find warmer gloves and something to cover my face. The fingers were totally numb by the time I got home. It would be nice if they would plow our roads, oh, ever.

Sibley Bike Depot blog

Look what I can do. I spent my free time at work this morning wrangling CSS into this pretty decent-looking (in my opinion) blog for the bike shop. Now John and I and hopefully another person or two who are active with the shop can post about Depot goings-on and local cycling shenanigans.

You can check it out. It's not finished yet but that's about how it's gonna look when I'm done. Maybe get a Flickr photo deal going in the right sidebar and more links on the left, otherwise that's about it. So St. Paul riders can look there for news about the shop, group rides, events, things like that. Cool.

Run, Lola, Run!

Summer seems like forever ago! I sent this photo to Scheherazade for her virtual birthday party, which is a pretty geeky idea. So, obviously, I think it's really cool. I went with this photo because I know she loves dogs, and who could not love Lola here?

Plus--wait? I think this is the first photo of myself that I've put on the site (other than the creepy eyeball one). So hello world.

I'm not bipolar, I'm just polar

After feeling so bummed out for a while, now I'm back on top of the world! That is because yesterday was a Black Day but today is a Super Good Day. I missed my bus this morning and it didn't faze me. Instead of moping, I am back to applying for jobs and planning for my interview tomorrow, and continuing work on the St. Paul Craftstravaganza! to be held this summer if all goes well.

First things first: I'm investigating event sites to host this thing, because it can't happen until we have a space for it. I would be very open to ideas for where such an event could be held. I'm looking at about 40 vendors with space for tables and walking room for about 1000-1500 attendees (the Minneapolis No Coast show drew over 2400 people, so this seems like a not outrageous estimate).

It doesn't have to be great it just has to be space. Ideally it will be cheap as free. I'm looking into hotels but expect them to be too expensive; other options are churches, parks, and maybe even big parking lots, but nothing especially comes to mind. Any locals have suggestions for me, please?

Suddenly everything's ponderous

Maybe it's the cold winter weather getting me down or just a combination of stresses from different areas in my life. Whatever it is, I had a little breakdown yesterday and just started to wander aimlessly around the house. I crashed in front of the TV for a few hours and looked through the same job listings over and over again. Suddenly, I became incredibly tired and went to bed around 8:30. This morning I woke up with a tremendous headache.

I have no good reason to be so miserable, but knowing that doesn't make me feel any better. So even though I'm feeling overwhelmed with too much to do, what's the first thing I did at the office this morning? Signed on for one more thing to do. That's just a blog thing though, it doesn't count for work. Writing is fun.

This brightened up my day a little bit. Last week, a festive MIT student decked the halls with walls of Mario (found via dinosaur comics). And here's one more thing to cheer up anyone who needs it: My Owner is an Idiot.

Don't copy that floppy

Everyone in the world needs to know about this.

When I was a youngster, we owned a state-of-the-art Commodore 64 computer and dozens of 5 1/4" floppy disks containing nothing but cracked and pirated games. My dad got the collection from a coworker and we loved going through those unlabeled disks and discovering games like Park Patrol and Attack of the Mutant Camels. I was unaware that there was any other method of acquiring software. Eventually we discovered that games could be purchased at certain stores and bought games like Arkanoid, Sky Wolf, and Bubble Bobble, but the bizarre free games always held a special place in my heart.

Still, I will never forget the sad day that my brother and I found a copy of Rampage in the Toys R Us and my mom wouldn't let us buy it, promising that we would come back later. Problem was, shortly afterward they discontinued all Commodore 64 software. Being a kid and as this was still before the Intar Web really took off, I had limited capacity for tracking down another copy, and I never found it again. We made our mom feel very guilty about that for a long time.

Tattoos again: I've got it

Monday's post about tattoos sparked a bit of debate. We struggled over the old question of what makes "art" and I tried to find an analogy to define my position on the subject. Maybe it was today's gunshot murder case or just enough time marinating on the subject, but I finally came up with a fitting comparison.

temporary tattoo : real tattoo : : water pistol : real pistol

One is just child's play; the other is for keeps. Actually, sticking on a temporary tattoo compared with the extended process of applying an actual tattoo makes the difference more like being squirted with water versus being riddled with bullets from a machine gun. But you get my drift. The impact, force, and significance of one are much greater than that of the other.

Of course, that's just my opinion and you're free to take it or leave it once again. If there's anything I should have learned about art by now, it's that different folks have different opinions of what's good and what's not, and who am I to disagree? One man's junk is another man's art. Just don't say that tattoos and temporary tattoos are the same thing.


Look what I found!

We got pounded by snow last night and where were the freakin' plows? Nary a single road in the city was cleared. My bus got stuck going uphill and we had to detour. I woke up a half hour before I normally do so that I could take an earlier bus, and ended up getting to work ten minutes late! Lame.

In other local news, we have this gem from the Star Tribune:

Police said a woman called them shortly before 3 a.m. to report that she had found someone in the living room of her apartment. The person had been shot.
WTF? Who just "finds" a corpse in her living room at 3 AM? I can't imagine how this one will play out. The article goes on to say that the police "have no suspect information this morning." Hey, police? I would start by suspecting the woman whose living room had a gunshot victim in it. That sounds pretty damn suspicious to me.

A word about the "novel"

Nobody gets to read it. That means you.

Here's the thing. Without going into too much detail, let me just say that the fifty thousand words I wrote are less of a novel and more of a confession. The resulting book is not fictional enough to share with anyone who was not involved, and far too autobiographical to share with anyone who was.

I wrote the book for me, not to ever publish or share, but to purge some stuff in me that I had to get out of my system once and for all. The result is not pretty. Oh, it's poetic in parts in its crude way and all too painfully true. But I'm not going to get all woe is me and emo crap on you. An urge to write roman à clef is the bane of first-time novelists, and I will not succumb to it.

I was suffering from a creative constipation. Now that it's been cleared, I am ready to do some real work. When and if the results of that are released, you won't be able to get me to shut up about it. I guarantee.


Comments have been published.

Wha? Crap. Thanks everyone for the comments you've left over the past, oh, month or so. They have now been approved and posted. I didn't realize I had switched on an option that pulls aside some comments for moderation, until I heard from a friend today who tried to post one, and I saw that I had 25 pending. They are all now on the site! Sorry about that.

(Also, I have disabled comment moderation so that this will not happen again. Now you can once again comment with confidence that your voice will be heard.)

Tattoos are art. Temporary tattoos aren't.

The tag line (I don't know the official newspaperese term) on the main page for an article in the Tribune today read, Tattoos as an art form. "Well duh tattoos are an art form," I thought. "That's why we call them tattoo artists." Then I saw that it was an article on temporary tattoos, and I vomited with disgust.

Because with a temporary tattoo, you take away the very thing that makes tattoos a powerful art form: their permanence. According to the article, "[t]he tattoos last on the skin about three to five days." Because they require no pain, no commitment, a temporary tattoo is not art in the way that an actual tattoo is. Rather, because it is so ephemeral and, well, temporary, it's just a pretty drawing. It's fashion. No different from a shirt or a pair of sneakers.

I have nothing against the artist or the project, I guess, and I don't really want to get into a discussion of what is and is not "art." I went and read the entire article and the whole thing is harmless enough. It was that tag line that got to me. I'm just not impressed with temporary stickers when there are so many incredible, creative people who are committing their bodies and lifetimes to displaying lasting works of art.


We went to the in-law's house on Saturday to bake cookies and other Christmas treats. Can you guess which two I had a hand in?

Crafting on my mind: St. Paul Spring Swap?

I thought it would be awesome to host a hipster craft fair in St. Paul come springtime '06. Anyone with me? The idea would be to bring together craftsters with cool hand-made goods for sale or trade. I've been doing some research and there seems to be a recent boom of these events around the country. We even have one in Minnepolis called No Coast Craft-O-Rama that is held in early December. But nothing in St. Paul that I can find.

Even though it's just a fancy in my mind right now, it's not too early to bring together like-minded people and form a core team that could bring this concept to reality. At first I thought I might do it on my own, but there would be a lot of work involved. So Saint Paulites (or San Paulitans), if this is something that sounds interesting to you at all, I'd love to bounce some ideas off you. Thanks.

You might be hearing more about this in the future, or not... mostly I'm known for brewing up detailed but half-baked schemes and then dropping them before I get to step one in the process for making it happen. But I'm also notorious for being committed hardcore to a project once it gets underway. If I can find one or two other people who want to see this through, then it's a done deal. For now it's back to the drafting board to see if I can make this work.

Never volunteer for anything...

...until you know what you are volunteering for. This advice was offered to me and my classmates by a couple of teachers in high school after they called for volunteers and then stuck the eager saps with some unpleasant task. But the punishment was never bad enough for the lesson to sink in. Today I made good on a promise to help out another department here at work, and upon arrival, I was dismayed when I found out what I had to do.

As it turned out, I was given approximately no instructions and then left alone to work for two hours at the intra-company help desk line. People called in constantly wanting me to fix their problems, and I had to apologize to every one of them that I could not fix their problems. I did not know how to do anything except pass the calls along, and that is what I did, for two hours. I made that help desk very unhelpful during the time I was there. The good news is that the computer I was borrowing had Google Earth on it, so I got to play with that for a little while in between calls.

Actually, two more good things came from this experience. For one, I gained a new appreciation and thankfulness for the job I have. And second, I finally learned my lesson about asking first before sticking my neck out on the chopping block. I'll never make that mistake again!


I'm not a phony, you're the phony.

Last night I watched the movie, Pollock. J went to bed early because she has a disease, but I stayed up late to watch the end, which is very depressing. Harris' performance as Jackson Pollock made me think of Jack Kerouac and a host of other insane geniuses. Why is it that so many brilliant artists also have such tortured souls and turn into severely screwed-up, alcoholic, abusive people?

Clearly you can have one without the other: there have been incredibly intelligent and creative people who were also fairly well-adjusted, and also, obviously, plenty of lunatics who did not make any great contribution to the arts. But for those like Pollock, I wonder if there is not some cause and effect involved. Did he need that mental instability to create his art? Did the art inside of him contribute to his instability?

I started thinking about this in terms of absolutes. Imagine that you are Jackson Pollock. Let's say we could take away all the causes that led to your drinking and rages but it would also render you unable to produce any more art. Would you take it? Now imagine in reverse, that you could choose to lose a bit of your mind and know that as a result, you would become a great artist. Double or nothing. Take it or leave it.

Of course, this is a fanciful hypothetical and for Pollock and his ilk there may not be much choice involved, but it still got me to wondrin'. It's an interesting problem I think. What if the pain is necessary to produce the work? The suffering of one person may be the catalyst for creating great works of art for the entire world. If Pollock's dementia had been checked before he discovered his "drip" technique, well, someone else might have done it sooner or later... but maybe not. Similarly, how many revolutionary masterpieces will we never see from those who don't go over the edge?


my winter biking gear is insufficient for this cold

I can't see the site tonight. Hopefully you can?

It is cold outside for reals and the Sibley Bike Depot is chilling down. John and I were the only ones present again this week for "volunteer night" so we pulled out my lowrider project again and finished securing the sparkle red banana seat and new black handlebar grips. Plus we tore apart the stem and greased and cleaned everything and put it together again. Afterwards I took it out on the streets and it was AWESOME. Except that I was freezing.

So when I got home my fingers and toes and face were numb and I was exhausted. I ran a bath but my brain was so cold that I forgot about it, and then we ran out of hot water. I sat in the tepid tub for a few minutes and got out chattering. The rest of the evening was all about warming up.

Sorry this post sucks. I got nothing.

Schmitt Söhne Riesling revisited

This German Riesling is November's (belated) Sui Generis Wine of the Month. I first posted about it in January and I've had another bottle or two since then. It is my wife's favorite wine and when we drink it, we can split a bottle in one night, which does not happen with any other wine. I like the crisp green apple tang and the candy-smooth-but-not-too-sweet flavor. She loves the low alcohol content and the pretty bottle (okay, we both love the pretty bottle). Gloriously drinkable; be warned that it will go fast!

(half-empty bottle of wine not visible on the bench next to me--you will have to take my word for it)


Law School: it's not for everybody!

Student blogger WhyLaw, who I have been chatting with since well before the 1L semester even started (back when I still planned on attending law school this fall), just announced that she has dropped out. She explains that she had to put her health first, and I hope that this decision works out for her. Even if nothing else good comes out of this, she will be staying in the awesome city of Portland, and I envy her that!

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was a potential law student, and now the first semester is wrapping up for all my 1L buddies. Some of them have proven more prolific bloggers than others, but this post has been the most stunning so far. The fact is that law school is just not a good fit for some people (or most people) but sometimes you can only discover that by giving it a shot.

I never even had that chance, but I think it was for the best. Once I knew I was not getting in, I found that I had no desire to reapply and seriously reconsidered my motivations for wanting to go in the first place. I may not have figured out yet what I want to do instead, but at least I am happy and moving in the right direction. I hope now that WhyLaw has removed herself from the law school track she can also discover the path that is best for her. Good luck to her, and to all of you poor suckers who are still in law school!


Sui Generis reading round-up

Busing to work buys me enough extra time that I have been on a reading rampage for the past month or so. Some of the books have been so incredible that I cannot help myself from sharing. Unfortunately I do not have correspondingly additional minutes for full blog write-ups. Instead, here is a quick list of the standouts.

  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: Finally, I got around to reading this awesome book. I can't say enough good things about it. It's flawless fiction, magical and spellbinding all the way through. Read it now or you will eat your own arm with regret.
  • Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami: Murakami's breakout novel offers a firm, robust plot of its own but it was interesting to note the sketches of themes that he would later unpack in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (a well, the winding of a spring, the separation from a woman who the main character loves, the unexpectedly ending up with another woman in the end). Its shorter length makes it a perfect introduction to Murakami if you have not read him yet. I look forward to reading more of his books, and soon!
  • Battle Royale by Koushun Takami: The writing/translation leaves much to be desired and the text is riddled with editorial errors. It was serialized as a comic in Japan after the success of the novel, but it reads like it went the other way around. Still, I enjoyed it, although I would have probably liked it better if I had read it ten years ago.
  • Stitch 'n' Bitch: Not a novel; I picked up a library copy for the Hot Head cap pattern that I am currently in the middle of knitting. It is specifically written for women, but it offers great instructions and ideas for knitters of either gender. Plus nice color photos in the center.
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson: I thought I might have mentioned this before but it is hard to tell since Blogger's search feature sucks so hard. Anyway, it is a graphic novel and it blew me away. Forget about 'comic books,' this is one of the most moving books I have read ever.
  • Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson: This was my only sour note in the bunch. I was expecting great stuff after 'discovering' Snow Crash earlier this year, so this much lengthlier novel was only a bigger letdown for all its girth. For all those words there's just not enough plot, action, or interesting content to go around. I will be skipping the rest of the trilogy.


Still not up to the task

First of all, where did that last post come from? I hardly watch any TV.

My brain is mush from all the writing and this day is draggin' on fo-eva! It is really snowing out too, it has been on & off all day. Sucks cos I drove this morning (ironically) because I have to meet another board member for the Sibley Bike Depot at the bank. Sheesh!

I have worn myself down and been so busy-feeling lately. When I get home tonight I just want to cook a yummy dinner, open a bottle of good red wine and spend the night on the couch with my wife watching Apocalypse Now and reading Battle Royale.

TV series babble

When Hugh Laurie said "Inter-web" on Tuesday's episode of House, I almost ROTFL'd myself.

This morning I dreamed that I met Matt LeBlanc and wished him good luck having half the success he did with Friends ever again. He turned to me with a hurt look in his face. I patted him on the arm and said, "oh, of course, 'Joey' is a really great show too!"