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

Stretching myself thin

Between my job, my volunteer work at the Depot, and planning for the Craftstravaganza, I've run low on productive time left for anything else. What falls through the cracks? This blog. With such a busy life, it feels less important, and with so many other outlets online especially it feels less necessary.

In fact, if you want to know what's going on with me these days then you'd do better to look at one of those other places. Check the Craftstravaganza site, I update it like a dozen times a day. It makes a better diary than this does. This page remains the repository of my deep thoughts, but there's no time for reflection when I'm so busy just living.


This is one comfy sock. All that's needed now is to knit a mate. At least I know what I'm in for this time around. This was a great learning project, and the end result is snug and soft! You know what they say, the journey of a thousand feet begins with a single sock.

Exciting week, boring round-up

The Craftstravaganza logo looked so pretty as the top post, didn't it? I'm loathe to kick it down a notch, but I suppose I should make one more post this week. Although, I've been pouring myself into the website creation and fair planning, so I haven't got much else to talk about. One thing, I've almost finished knitting my first sock... I'll be starting the toe decreases tonight. Hopefully I can cut down the time it takes to knit up its partner. Oh, and I also hope it fits, I guess. The next pair is gonna have skulls on 'em!

Let's talk about what's coming up (super interactive edition!)!

  • Tomorrow is our annual meeting at the Sibley Bike Depot. You (yes, you) can come and share free pizza with Sui Generis.
  • On Wednesday I'll be participating in Wine Blogging Wednesday and you can too, if you want. It's easy; all you need is to go to a wine store. You were going to do that anyway, right? Write it up and be a star!
  • And, of course, we've got this craft fair coming up, and we're looking for vendors. Are you an awesome person (if you read this blog, the answer is YES!)? Do you make awesome stuff? It would be awesome of you to apply. unveiled!

(click here if you think you can handle it)

Looky looky. A little keepsake for you guys.

Instructions: Use the picture you like best from the first (no clicking around for 44 pages) page of the search results on Google Image.
I don't normally hop on the meme train (you'll notice I snubbed Kristine's Shannon's tagging me for the latest survey) but this one was fun and gives you something interesting to look at. Plus there is a surprise twist at the end!

The city and state of the town where you grew up, no quotation marks. My result:

The town where you currently reside. My result:

Your grandmother's name. My result:

Your favorite food. My result:

Your favorite drink. My result:

Your favorite smell. My result:

Your favorite song. My result:

Saving the best for last...Your name, first and last, but no quotes. My result:

I was not expecting to find this! It actually did come up on the Google search but I'm not linking to it. Why? Because I found it on an old free hosting account that inexplicably never got shut down, and remains in stasis to this day. I can't edit it, and it's very embarassing. It would be better for everyone involved if it remained unknown. But I'm still treating you to this comic strip that I drew way back in high school (or earlier?)--anyway a long time ago.


Announcement update: remain calm

I'm really sorry to keep all my readers on tenterhooks about the upcoming revelation. When I posted the teaser on Monday, I hoped to unveil it by the end of the day, or Tuesday at the latest. Alas, it was not to be. However!! the process for bringing about our advent of this momentous occasion has been put back into gear, and I can promise with some assurance that I will have something solid to show you by Friday morning at the latest. Quite possibly sooner!

So, once again, I apologize. A week is an eternity in Inter-web time, and I didn't mean to be cruel. To whet your curiousity and squelch any unnecessary rumors, here's a partial list of things that my wife and I were NOT working on over the weekend:

  1. Purchasing a house
  2. Conceiving a child
  3. Establishing a Typewriters For Bloggers program

Look out--! crazy walking in the road man!

So tonight as I was coming home something weird happened. A few blocks from our house, I saw a guy walking in the street coming towards me. Right away my flags went up and I was watching this man. But as I passed, he walked right up to me saying, "hey, hi hi, hey man!" and I was too surprised and caught off guard to react. My first thought was, "oh no, I'm going to be mugged just like the surly vegan!"

Luckily, he didn't touch me or my bike even though he was close enough to do something if he wanted to. I don't know what his deal was... if he was drunk or crazy or just enjoys harassing cyclers. I didn't intend to find out. I pushed my pedals down hard to get away from him.

Also, I almost got hit by a bus!

What a weekend

My wife and I spent the last two days working on a collaborative super-secret project that we are almost ready to unveil (so hold your horses). But, we can't announce it to the public just yet. The good news is, after today, all the pieces should be in place. We're very excited and this is just the beginning of a fantastic journey. I tried to write a few posts about other things, but gave up. Stay tuned for an announcement that will turn your world upside down! (We hope.)

Captioning fun with the Star Trib!

"When chicks see you in this boat, they're gonna think your penis is THIS BIG."


"It's like the olden days!"

Picture this scene, if you will: Sui Generis bent over a desk, writing correspondence on his manual typewriter. He finishes a satisfying paragraph and leans back to consider the next line while drinking cold beer from a can. At his feet lies his dog. She looks up from gnawing on her bone when the air rings out anew with the clacking of typewriter keys. On the other side of the room sits his beautiful young wife, knitting a pair of woolen booties for her elder sister's baby.

In fact, it did seem like we had slipped back a few decades that quiet evening, working in the drawing-room of our Victorian home. The fact that we were both sitting in front of a computer brought me crashing back to the 21st century. It was a nice thought, and a pleasant illusion for a while, though.

Craigslist karma: goes around comes around

Remember this? I've been having so much fun with craigslist lately! I wanted that typewriter so bad, but it was removed from the site before I could ask for it. Then, we tried to sell a mixer and suffered an ordeal with a buyer who went through all the trouble of haggling but never came to our house or responded to further emails. What a maroon.

I just couldn't get that typewriter out of my head, though, and I decided to post a WANTED ad in the off-chance that someone else might be looking to get rid of one. Sure enough, a few hours later I got a response from the guy who had posted the original Smith-Corona portable manual typewriter that had ignited my lust in the first place! He still had it because--get this--the guy who he agreed to give it to never showed up to claim it! Oh yes. The click-clack of little keys in my house is music to my ears.

Is it weird that I'm more excited about a free, old typewriter than my expensive, new computer?

Sailor Jerry Spiced Navy Rum

I just had to get this out there, because it's important. Behold, your Sui Generis booze recommendation of the year! If you drink rum, this is the rum you should be drinking. It's just the best, that's all. 96 proof, distilled in the U.S. Virgin Islands, authentic good spiced rum with just a hint of cherry. Trust me. You won't regret it. It's not super-fancy and -expensive, it's just a solid liquor that can't be beat, at a price that's only a couple bucks more than the brand name swill. But forget about the other guys. After one taste of this rum, you'll be like, "Captain who?"

As a bonus (if you happen to be me), each bottle bears the name and art of legendary tattoo artist Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins. Combining two of my greatest passions: tattoos and alcohol? That's a rockstar combination. Just take a break from the rum if you're due to get a tattoo (alcohol thins your blood and that's bad when you're gonna be bleeding a lot). Don't drink and ink.

Tags are now functional!

Thanks to Nathan for pointing me in the right direction. With and Greasemonkey and a little help from my friends, I will now be able to categorize new posts for your searching pleasure. And it's so easy!

Uh...wait. Everything looked fine from my computer at work. Now that I'm home, I'm getting No Items... even though I can see the number of tagged posts on the right side of the screen! What am I doing wrong now? Judas priest.

Okay, for the last time: they seem to be working now. I had to clear my cache and reload the pages a few times, but my posts eventually do show up in the listings. I hope they work for everyone else too.

Life hacks: get it in writing

I'm interested in productivity tricks and managing my time wisely, a task that I often fail at. I want to be a good steward of my resources just because it makes sense, but I'm also intrinsically curious about stuff like this. Why was I able to concentrate one day and I fell into a stupor the next day? What are my main distractions? How can I help myself to stay focused?

I find it really helps me to write down what I need to do and keep the list with me. Simply having a list on the computer is not enough; it doesn't feel 'real' enough for me to accept it as urgent. And just writing it down isn't enough, either, because I will forget about it unless I see it frequently. Lately I've been using post-it notes for my daily to-do list and sticking it in my wallet. This works.

Last night, for example, I was able to get a lot of Treasurer stuff and housecleaning done despite drinking a can of Miller High Life (the Champagne of beers!) and polishing off a bottle of wine at home. That cheers me up, since it proves that it wasn't just the alcohol that did me in on Sunday. It was just the lack of a list. Plus, I felt great because I got to bike around in a couple inches of fresh snow. I did get lost downtown for a while, because the street signs were covered in white! But then I chugged my way uphill to home and was invigorated & inspired to keep working.

Fine literature vs. scary boat stories

I had my act so absolutely not together this morning that I forgot even to pack a book to read. I had nothing to do on the bus but pick my nose and wallow in regret. Luckily, I won't have to make the return trip empty-handed. This is because the place where I work has a nice free 'lending library' which is a bookshelf that actually has some pretty good novels in it. I took The Confessions of Max Tivoli a little while ago (it's a pretty good book, by the way).

But what to read next? There are so many choices! Drowning Ruth? Middlesex? House of Sand and Fog? The English Patient? Nah. Not when I can read Ghost Ships of the Great Lakes instead!


How to waste your life one day at a time

I had a great Saturday and followed it up with a stupid Sunday. On Saturday morning I set the alarm clock to wake up early, biked down to the Depot and took care of some Treasurer business. Then I rode the fixed-gear to the bank to make a deposit. I had so much fun doing that, I just kept on going to the river and rode the trail for a few miles. There were a few walkers on the path, but I didn't see another bike. I got to watch the sun rise on the way home.

That afternoon, my little brother came over to build a computer from the parts I ordered. That was fun, too. He got it all set up in a few hours and we went out for pizza at the Savoy. It was a great day. So what went wrong Sunday?

For some reason I thought it would be a great idea to spend the entire day playing games on my new computer. When I was a kid, my mom would cut our marathon gaming sessions short, and I always thought it would be awesome to play games until my fingers blistered and my eyes bled. It turns out she knew what she was talking about. It wasn't even a very relaxing way to spend the day, since I felt awful by the time I dragged myself away. I was useless for the rest of the night and went to bed early.

I'm trying to be more intentional about the way I spend my time, but old habits die hard. Maybe I just need to replace the old, bad habits with new ones. I hear that fix riding is addictive, and it did just get me on the longest ride I've done this winter, so I may be on to something. Now I need to increase the dose.

(UPDATE: I'm trying tags again, this time with formatting. It seems to do the trick for others; hopefully it will work for me.)

Fix infatuation

I'm in lust. I've got it bad. All I can think about is taking another ride on that pretty little fixed gear bicycle that we have (hopefully still) sitting in the shop. I dreamed about backpedalling last night, for crying out loud. I felt the pressure on my knees, the direct connection with my legs through the bicycle to the road, and got so excited that I woke up in a sweat. Nothing good can come of this.


It's the knit!

I'm making socks! I picked up the double-pointed needles again and this time was determined to master knitting in the round. Once again, I felt like I was wrestling the needles and getting nothing but poked in return. While I struggled to get started, my wife completed a very nice little bag. I was getting frustrated. But after a few rounds, I had a breakthrough.

In Knitting For Anarchists, Anna Zilboorg writes about how clever our hands can be if we allow them to do things beside smashing keyboards all day long. Sure enough, without even having to think about it, my fingers eventually learned where to move the needles on their own. Before I knew it, I was knitting in the round--if not like a pro, at least not like a rank amateur.

Learning new skills and making different objects is one of the great things about knitting. When I started to knit, I said I would be happy if I could make a pair of socks, and I'm well on my way. I thought I might need to knit for a long time before I could tackle this project, but with my friend taking on a sweater, I decided I could handle it. I only need to work the heel and foot and I'll be done with my first sock!


Craig's List confusion

Something stupid just happened to us because my wife and I are trying to sell a Kitchenaid Mixer. Some dude emailed me on the day of the posting. We haggled about the price, then he said he needed time to get the money together. I said okay, and he wrote a few days later saying he had the cash. Great, I said, you can pick it up tonight. Here's our address. Let us know what time you'll be here.

That was Monday. He never came to our house or emailed me back. I'm trying to wrap my head around why a person would do this. It just doesn't make any sense to me. Oh well. We're still trying to get rid of this thing. Anyone want to buy a mixer at 10% off the retail price? For blog readers, I'll knock the price down to $175. WHOA THAT'S A $5 SAVINGS. ACT NOW!! I'll write my pseudonym on the back and we'll call it a Sui Generis signature edition. ONE OF A KIND! HOLY CRAP.


I really need to find a place to host the Craftstravaganza, but other responsibilities keep getting in the way. I have so much to do that I'm having trouble keeping my priorities straight. Like last night, I promised to show up at the bike shop but it turned out that it was more important for me to spend the evening at home with my wife. Another thing I need to do is find a job before looking for a house. That's really putting the cart before the horse. Not only can we not afford a house right now, but I want to know what my commute is going to be like before signing a mortgage. Time is limited, but everything has to get done eventually. Now if I could only book a venue for the craft fair!

Look at that little beauty. Gorgeous color, nice size, great condition. Posted for free on Craig's List yesterday, but I was too slow to snap her up. Dang! I want a portable manual typewriter so hard!

In a time trap

The upcoming and still imaginary Craftstravaganza is beginning to invade my dreams, and at the same time I started thinking about law school again. I'm caught between the allure of the future and the tug of the past. What brought up law school all of a sudden? J asked if I was going to sell the Black's Law Dictionary that my parents gave me last Christmas. I suppose I ought to.

But I'm so frustrated by my career that I got to thinking maybe law school is the way to go, after all... I've been down this road before! I still don't know what I want out of my future, and that makes it impossible to give up the things I wanted in the past. Maybe they will turn out to be right for me in the end, so how can I let them go?

Then there are things that I thought I wanted in the past. Now I have them and I don't know what to do about them any more. The old feelings are gone but the things themselves are harder to shake off than the things in my past. Not even I know what I'm saying anymore. It's all so stupid. I'm gonna drink beer, ride bike, and everything will turn out alright.

My life as a dork

I try not to mention it too much on this site, but the truth is, I'm a huge nerd. I may have broken away from my geeky upbringing, but I'll never be totally cured. The evidence can be found at another blog I set up to talk about a game called Flatspace II. I'm ashamed, but I can't keep it a secret any longer. Especially not when an infrequently-updated fledgling website about an obscure, independent computer game gets twice the daily traffic of my established personal blog. What do I gotta do around here? I ask you!

Two firsts: fixed-gear riding & winter wipeout

An ex-member of Sibley donated a nice Sekai 500 fixie to the shop (I checked & it's not in the Gallery--need to do something about that). I'd never been on a fixed-gear before, so I jumped on and practiced trackstands for about an hour. Man my legs were jelly when I was done and I can see how riding would be harsh on your knees but I swear I fell in love with that bike as advertised hooked on the fix and now I want one of my own. It was just a smidgen too big for me maybe but damn if John doesn't buy it (he called it first) then I'm gonna be sad to see it go.

And, sure it's a little windy but riding has been great the streets are mostly clear and there's no excuse for not biking this winter. Tonight was the first time I spilled it. Leave it to me to hold off on the first icy crash until we have this insane long thaw. Well I knew the alley was sheer ice from when I pushed my bike out to head to the shop, but I still tried to bike it. I did okay as long as I was going straight, but I turned the front wheel just a little to head into our yard and BAM, I was down, I took most of the impact by sliding my right leg but then somehow landed on my left kneecap too.

I limped into the house, walked my bike down to the basement, and put a bag of frozen green beans on my knee. (The bag freaked Lola out and she wouldn't come near me--now I guess we now how to keep her from jumping all over us when we get home, just pull out some frozen foodstuffs). It's not going to be anything worse than a bruise, but I figure that still earned me a good beer and a soak in the tub. After downing a Stella Artois, I feel like I could do it all over again.

This is why we can't have nice things!

I met Gary Baseman! Except, as expected, I was too nervous to actually talk to him, so it's more accurate to say that I saw Gary Baseman. Eh. It's better than nothing.

So as I was saying, I saw Gary Baseman yesterday at Robot Love in Uptown. Mr. Baseman was sitting at a table signing things that people bought. I wasn't really planning on buying anything at all--even though I love Robot Love and it's like a little trip back to Japan every time I visit, I've never bought any of their fantabulous vinyl toys or collectible figurines. Ultimately, I decided I wasn't a big enough Baseman fan to justify buying something just for the sake of having it signed. Just to stand in his presence was enough.

I was sorely tempted by some marked-down Flying Fortress Teddy Troops, but I didn't spring for one of those, either. What I did buy was an awesome OBEY t-shirt. I hate most of the shirts I have now, plus most of them are way too big due to my baggy clothes phase. Still, I don't buy t-shirts much, because I'm tremendously picky now in a backlash against a promiscuous period of thrift store t-shirt accumulation. Also, I don't like buying new clothes because I know they won't stay new long. If I buy a crappy shirt, nothing will ever happen to it. On the other hand, I didn't have my nice Paris track jacket for a week before I dropped a pen and marked it up.

I brilliantly decided to wear my brand-new OBEY t-shirt while I ate dinner: a Portabella mushroom grilled in vegetable oil and soy sauce, stacked in a bun with all the fixin's. Sure enough, before I even took a bite, the whole thing slopped out onto my shirt. I soaked it in cold water immediately, but to no avail. The oil stains are there to stay. Moral of the story? To get my money's worth in skin coverings, I should stop buying t-shirts and get more tattoos.

Pet Sematary

I got a message from my mom this morning, saying that they are going to put our cat to sleep, but I don't know if I can trust it. Our cat, "Kitty" (my family is notoriously bad at naming pets--we also had a bird named "Big Bird" and a dog named "Pupper") is fourteen years old and incontinent. My parents just installed new carpet in the basement. The carpet and the cat cannot both survive; one will have to go. But this is not the first time my mom has threatened to pull the plug.

Years ago, when I was in college and Kitty was much younger, she had an altercation with the garage door that left her minus one hind leg. It was a horrible injury and the surgery to repair her was expensive. My mom called me up, in tears, and said they had decided to spare Kitty the agony and put her to sleep instead of getting her stitched up. I came to terms with the fact that I would never see my childhood pet alive again.

Until the next time I came home to visit, and there she was, limping around on three legs and howling in pain. It was a pitiful sight for a few weeks until she learned to walk without the leg, but even more of a shock to me, since I thought she was dead. So, I'm a bit skeptical. Luckily I already went through the grieving process, and each time I visit my parents, I just expect that our cat may not be there any more. I'll believe it when I see it.

On the other hand...

Maybe 2006 will be a year where I just can't think of anything to say on this blog. That's the direction I'm going so far. Well, I guess nothing especially thrilling has happened since the big New Year's party. I've been working at the bike shop a lot and we visited our friends Noria and Dr. Vono the other night. Otherwise, it's back to business as usual. I'm still slogging along at my temp job and trying to find a venue for the craft fair. Tonight I'm going to exchange my Christmas gift card for wine and Black Label beer at Surdyk's.

(Wha? I thought I posted this last night, but not only did it not save--I lost another paragraph. Oh well, here's what's left of it.)

UPDATE ETIQUETTE QUESTION: We ate dinner at Panera, and I had broccoli cheese soup in a bread bowl. What's the proper procedure for deconstructing those things? I usually soak up most of the soup with the bread castoffs and then just tear into it with my hands. It works all right, with the side-effect of getting soup all over my hands and face and looking like a big slob. All attempts at using silverware, however, have failed. If you have a bread bowl eating technique, please share.

Ongoing visual evolution

Tweaked the design a bit last night. I hope you hate it!

Blindness by José Saramago

2006 Blog Book Club selection for January.

Who is speaking, asked the doctor, A blind man, replied a voice, just a blind man, for that is all we have here.

I enjoyed reading Blindness and have high hopes for the future of this book club! Since our deadline is the end of the month, this post is very premature, but I was too excited to hold off reading the book and want to get my thoughts down while they're still fresh. A warning to my regular readers: this entry is a lot longer than my usual posts. And a warning to other book clubbers who have not already read the book: you may not want to continue, lest I spoil any surprises for you. Onward to the novel.

The unique style of the book, as one commenter on Amazon mentioned, imitates the feeling of being blind. In other words, the format of Blindness artfully embodies the themes of the story. The dialogue that jumps from speaker to speaker, without quotation marks, intentionally creates in the reader the same confusion that the blind might experience. I also liked the touch of not using any chapter headings, which amplifies the stark design.

The quarantine in Blindness reminded me of The Plague, by Albert Camus, except that in the latter book, quarantine is imposed and maintained from the inside whereas here it is controlled from outside. In Camus' novel, bleak though it may be, the plague victims are at least still regarded as fellow humans to be saved, rather than as monsters to be contained and destroyed, beyond salvation. In fact, the attempted (and ultimately, failed) method of containment in Blindness brings up another comparison that is near and dear to my heart: classic Zombie movies! (I know, whatever lit cred I established up until now just went out the window--bear with me.)

The "white blindness" begins like a classic zombie outbreak, with the initial cause of infection sudden and unknown, and is even more dreaded because the method of transmission is mysterious as well. The victims cease to be seen as humans, as evidenced by the terror of soldiers keeping them in quarantine, and the prevailing military opinion that they might be better off dead. The blind are slow, clumsy and weak, but the soldiers' fear is not of physical attack but of pestilence/contagion--the horror of becoming ONE OF THEM. With zombies, being killed outright can be seen as preferable to being bitten and reanimated. In Blindness the same outlook is evidenced by the officer who shot himself upon going blind, preferring suicide to a life without sight.

And yet the characters in Blindness are still human and pitifully aware of how far they have fallen. Saramago advances the scope of disaster with masterful pacing, moving from one conflict to another, until the disease has spread throughout the city and it seems that things could not get any worse.

I sensed a mood shift about halfway through the book when the original group escapes into the larger world. Until then, they had been battling for basic survival while coming to terms with the illness and their situation in quarantine. They were cast out of the world and left to their own devices in the hospital, so all their problems were confined and amplified. Suddenly, we realize that everyone is living under the same conditions and the dilemma is on a much larger scale.

The book is very philosophical throughout, but after a certain point the physical action becomes secondary to the basic questions that the survivors are left to deal with. It is here where the book quite clearly displays a connection to The Plague, zombie movies and of course lots of other fiction: the situation used as allegory of the human condition. Blindness deals with concepts of what it means to be human, and the struggle to retain humanity and dignity in dehumanizing conditions. Of course, the central issue is the plague of blindness itself.

One commenter says that, absurd as it may sound, the white blindness is an allegory for being unable to see. Saramago mentions that the disease is not caused by damage to the eyes, and one victim theorizes that the problem must be located in the brain. I can't find the quote now (they're just about impossible to find in this book!) but one of the characters says something to the effect of, Now that we're blind, we can see things as they really are.

He realizes that all of humanity has been struck with blindness from the beginning, and by the end of the book, some of the characters (esp. the girl with the dark glasses and the man with the eyepatch) are able to surmount this mental blindness and find a sort of redemption. Even with no hope for a cure, they find peace and a new beginning. And since I could go on forever, that's as good a place as any for me to stop. Let the discussion begin!


New Year's and Sibley Bike parties

Whoo! What a weekend. We drank some great wine with our friends and had a good time that was not ruined by our landlady (whom we have not seen in months) suddenly coming home and acting, frankly, not very nice. All is forgiven! 2006 is the year of no grudges and no wasted energy. This is the year that we get things done.

I hauled a heavy box full of stuffed envelopes to the shop last night. Today we are mailing out the year-end letter to our members and local bike shops, asking for money and inviting everyone to come and have pizza with us at our annual meeting. You are invited! It's at the Sibley Bike Depot on January 28. Come and hang out with Sui Generis and talk about bikes.