Monday, October 08, 2007

Weekend Rambles

Saturday morning I rode my Litespeed for the first time since August. What a blast! That bike still amazes me. Everytime I get on it, it amazes me how silky smooth it really is. The Merlin is harsh and tight in comparision.

After the bike ride and lunch, Tania and I drove to Anaco to take her sister and infant niece back. Things went pretty good. For the most part, I ended up hunkered down in the air conditioned bedroom watching pirate DVDs. That said, things are getting worse in Anaco economic-wise and crime-wise.

On our way back home, we decided to take a different route. We returned via Araqua de Barcelona where we had lunch, then drove on a questionable "highway" that was potholed and dirt for a 6 km section. After that it smoothed out okay. It was a scenic drive, but I was tired when we got back.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Afternoon

Just about to head out. Not sure what the plan is...Probably more of the same. Just another weekend in paradise.

Went for a bike ride with Jacques yesterday. I, of course, rode the Merlin SS. I was able to clean some stuff I hadn't before, plus when sprinting for beers, I was able to suck his wheel for a ways. I was doing 40 kph (25 mph) on my SS! Fast for a 32:18 gear ratio.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

More on Single Speeding

Boy howdy, now every time I ride the Merlin, I just get all spacey and zoned out. I come back from a ride feeling euphoric and happy, but there are chunks of the ride I can't account for. Certain parts of my latest rides are just total blanks. It is really strange. This used to happen every so often, but now it’s almost an every ride event.

I don't know if this is because the bike is so familiar and now so simple I don't have to think about anything. No anticipating a gear change or anything...its just pedaling. Now I think I am seeing the true appeal of single speeding.

Another aspect of single speeding is the weight of the bike. The Merlin probably weighs less than 22 lbs. I think it weighs about 20 lbs now. It is feathery light…less than 10% of my body weight. It is so fun! I did an out-and-back section yesterday, and when I turned the bike around, just lifting it up between my legs and doing a 180, it was incredibly light feeling. It is fun to flick the bike around. I can easily make the rear end fishtail around a bit.

Lots of fun for sure!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy 100th Birthday Grandmother!

My grandmother turns 100 years old today. She was born in Arkansas on September 26, 1907.

My grandmother has been very important in my life. She is the matriarch of the family. Anything I did in my life, I felt, in my own way, I needed to keep her proud.

Her husband, my grandfather, was a great man too. He was an educator in Arkansas for something like 60 years! He's the one that influenced me in going into education as a career. Granddaddy was born in 1903 and died in 1990. He lived a good and full life.

Grandmother is still sharp for a woman of 100. Though now blind, she still lives independently in a small house across the street from my mom's in New Mexico. She even enjoys a belt of Wild Turkey Kentucky bourbon every now and then.

Anyway, I just want to wish my grandmother the happiest of days!

(the photo is from July 2006)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Flow State

I had the strangest bike ride yesterday. I was riding with a friend (a newbie), a guy I work with. This morning I told him something like this..."I don't remember our ride from the point just after passing the Corsa till we reached the exit of the tree tunnel. What happened there?"

He was surprised! "You don't remember?", he asked. "We were racing! You were spinning out on your single speed. I looked over at you and your legs were spinning really fast. I was getting tired trying to keep up. We slowed down at the tree tunnel."

I have been riding my Merlin SS (single speed) exclusively for a month now. My Merlin is old (as far as mtn bikes go), a 1996 frame. Its fully rigid (no suspension) and its like an old friend. It fits me like a glove. I converted this bike to single speed about a year ago.

More and more I seem to be reaching this flow state which did happen before, but now it happens very often on this old single speed. This was the first time it happened while riding with someone else (I think). Usually I am alone when it happens. It is a trip! I don't know if its the bike since being a single speed, I don't have to think about shifting and so on.

Does this happen to anyone else?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Latest Book...

I am currently reading Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded; August 27, 1883. Written by Simon Winchester, its a book about geology, economy, politics, and religion. Very interesting. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Scotland!!! Bridge of Allen and Stirling

I milled around the village of Bridge of Allen for a few days. I had planned on going south to ride the Seven Stanes, but the rains returned, I was freaked about hunting for a place to stay, worried about getting back to the Edinburgh airport on time, and I was generally concerned about my expenses. I decided to lay low and just wait till my return trip.

John Will was with me a few days. We stayed at a couple of B & B's, hit the pubs, and after a couple of days, he flew back to the USA. I also had to find a new place to stay and ended up at a cheap hotel.

I walked around a lot. I walked to the Wallace Monument. I climbed the stairs, I walked around part of the University of Stirling, then I discovered the bus line that would take me downtown Stirling.

Stirling was/is a nice city. Very clean, very friendly. I stumpled upon a genuine Scottish pub, The Claymore. Being the only "Yank" in the place, I was treated with curiosity and friendliness. I met some real Scottish characters. Lots of fun! After 3 pints, I decided I better leave, and I meant to return but I never did. Instead I walked to the castle.

That is how I spent my days in Bridge of Allen and Stirling.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Scotland!!! The Bike Trip, Part VI, 10 Aug 2007

It’s the last day of the bike tour and kind of a sad day. This day we rode pavement all the way to Montrose. It was a short ride, but scenic. We were out of the Highlands and into rolling farm country.

In our exuberance and competitiveness, we missed a turn, so we approached Montrose from slightly north instead of from the west. I guess it worked. We found our way to the beach on the North Sea. Took a few photos, packed the Litespeed in its box, ate some lunch at a local diner, and eventually loaded everything into the van, then loaded ourselves onto a small bus for our trip back to Stirling.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Scotland!!! The Bike Trip, Part V, 9 Aug 2007

From Garnshiel, we did a great section of pavement to the town of Balleter. It was a beautiful place. After visiting the local ATM (cash supply running out), we continued down the road to a "royal horse trough". I don't know what else to call it. Apparently Queen Victoria loved riding her horses through the Scottish glens and mountains. Scattered here and there are horse troughs for her majesty's mounts.

From the royal horse trough, we off roaders took off up Glen Tanar. Story goes, that Glen Tanar is the most pristine glen in Scotland. It still has all of its trees! The owner of the land, bought his trees back from the government during WWII. He saved the trees so they wouldn't be made into troop carriers or Mosquito fighter/bombers.

Up the glen we rode, and on the shoulder of Mount Keen (939 meters), Scotland's eastern most monro (a monro is a mtn that is over 3000 ft or 918 meters). It was about a mile of hike-a-biking then onto top. The ride across the heather was fairly easy, then a screaming descent! We rode pavement (ugh) into Edzel for our last night on the bikes. One more day to the North Sea!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Scotland!!! The Bike Trip, Part IV, 8 Aug 2007

From Tomitoul, it was a nice ride up one glen, over a divide and down another. We ended our day at a nice hunting lodge at Garnshiel.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Scotland!!! The Bike Trip, Part III, 7 Aug 2007

Day three, we rode from Kinguisse (famous for its shinty championships) to the whisky town of Tomiltoul. This was technically the most demanding of days with a lot of varied terrain. We rode through the heart of the Cairngorms; forded steams, climbed hills, blasted down two track, rode single track across heather-filled bogs, and up and over a technical scree slope (I almost cleaned it, but bobbled near the top in the brick-sized/shaped rocks). The town of Tomiltoul the second highest village in Scotland and is on the Whisky Trail. I bought two bottles of single-malt (one was given to my mother's husband, and other was enjoyed at the SPC...but more on that later).
The bikes were pretty thrashed after this day. I had broken a spoke on the Litespeed, plus my brake pads were wearing down quickly. Darn those V-brakes!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Scotland!!! The Bike Trip, Part II, 6 August 2007

Rode through a beautiful glen to Kingussie. Kingussie was a nice place.

Scotland!!! The Bike Trip. Part I, 5 Aug 2007

I signed on with Wildcat Adventures out of Stirling for a Trans-Scotland mountain bike trip. It was a good outfit, very professional. We started in Strontian, a small village on a western inlet. From their we pedaled along Loch Sheil to Glenfinnen by lunch, then finally to Spean Bridge for our first night. I was bonking by the time I reached Spean Bridge, but a pint of Guiness at the Commando Bar solved that problem.

Scotland!!! (Edinburgh)

August 1, I flew to Edinburgh. I actually arrived on the morning of August 2.

Summer Update Part I

July 12: I flew to Miami direct from Barcelona, Venezuela via Avior Airlines! No need to deal with Caracas anymore! Yeeha! It was a great flight on an older 737. In Miami, I cleared customs then checked my bike and my bag onto Continental Airlines on to El Paso, TX. It was a very quick and smooth journey from my place in Lecheria to El Paso.

July 13 - 31: Hung out in Silver City with friends and family. It was too muddy to mtn bike but I did do some road biking and got my butt kicked. Drove to Fence Lake to look at property but decided it was too expensive for what and where it was. Drove up to Gallup to see Stan-the-Man! He's one of my favorite friends. Great guy! Then over to Corrales and Albuquerque to see Jim, Roma, as well as my son Kyle.

I took Kyle on a little road trip up the Jemez Canyon, then over to Cuba, NM. Cuba was part of my old territory from 20 years past, then drove down to Torreon, NM to show Kyle my first community where I started my teaching career in 1985. It is still a beautiful place. I even ran into some of my old students! These guys were now in their 30's! Nuts!

Also during this time, I drove to Phoenix to see RUSH in concert. Stan gave me a free ticket and we met there at the Cricket Pavillion. It was a good show. The next day I drove up to Black Canyon City to see my good friend Mike. Its always good to see Mike. We did a couple of rides together then I had to get back to Silver City to get ready for Scotland!

Back in Black!

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I left for the USA on July 12 and returned to Venezuela August 23. While in New Mexico, my Internet access was marginal since my mom only had dial-up and it was frustratingly slow. My wife and I moved into our new place, but we haven't got a land line so no Internet access there either.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A quick update since its been a month...

Life is better now...summer vacation and a new place to live.

We are living in the new apartment eventhough we don´t have a functioning kitchen yet. We still love it! Its ours!

Lots of problems to solve here and there.

I leave for the USA on Thursday. Look for regular updates.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Condo Progress

I haven't posted in a few days so I thought I'd give an update of what's going on.

The condominium progresses...We actually started the process in getting it livable. New condos in Venezuela are basically empty shells and it is up to the owner to finish the interior.

There are several projects Tania and I are dealing with; 1. Central air conditioning needs to be bought and installed. 2. We needed to decided what type of flooring, buy the material and have it installed. 3. Design a kitchen, buy appliances, and have installed. 4. Closets need to be built and installed. 5. Furniture, we have very little of, and need to buy more.

Its seems, unfortunately, phases 1 and 2 have had a clash. Just as we get our expensive porcelin tiles being laid down, the air conditioning guys show up pushing down several tiles which needed to be replaced. Each tile cost $7.00.

We needed to buy our appliances by the end of the month and this is pretty much done. We have bought all of the major appliances; Whirlpool refrigerator w/icemaker, Teka (from Spain) 4-burner gas range top, Teka gas/electric oven w/rotisser, Teka exhaust hood, Teka SS sinks (below top design) and "Italian" faucet. We are still needing to buy a washer and drier. Looks like we mostly have a "Teka" kitchen.

The floor should be done this week. We asked the air conditioning guys not to show up until the floor was finished. The kitchen counter/cabinet/countertop contractor is scheduled to measure the area on Wednesday and it is scheduled to be installed the first week in July.

I need to head to the USA sometime in mid-July. We need to be out of our current apartment by Aug 1, but we plan to move as soon as the floor and a/c are in. The bathrooms are finished so we will use a hotplate and "camp out" for a while.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Video from Anaco rocket launch

Video from Anaco rocket launch. George and Gary took on the roles of the Soviets (a.k.a. Russian) in our space race. I took on the role of the Americans in the race. My rocket didn't went up okay, but the parachute did not deploy. They had 5 out of 6 parachute deployments, hence the "superior Russian technology".

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Parachute Failure

Had a water rocket competition today with another school. We decided to have an egg loft competition. The rival school had a simple gravity release, whereas I decided to go with a more complex chemical release which has worked in the past. (I'll be posting video later.)

My vinegar and Alka-Selzer release didn't work, so my egg-tronaut (Egg-ar Mitchell) had a rough landing, but still survived because of my cradle design.

I am going to redesign the same mechanism, instead of vinegar and antacid, I am going two other chemicals that should give a violent reaction.

Just more weirdness.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Well I did it...I used PayPal and paid the balance on my Scotland mountain biking trip. EGADS! Refrigerator for the condo or Scotland? Both! I'm going to Scotland!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Pinhole Photography

Pinhole photography is something that I've been interested in for a long time, but have never spent much time reseaching or practicing. I made my first working pinhole camera about 10 years ago from an oatmeal box and using photographic paper. My recent attempts have been associated with my physics classes. Two weeks ago, my two physics students and I made cameras. I had them do as much as their own work as possible. They made their own pinholes, we tried to determine the diameter and focal lengths, then tried take some pictures.

These images came from a camera with a pinhole diameter of about 0.3mm and a focal length of 5cm. I used Kodak 110, ASA 400 film. The shutter was heavy black paper hinged with scotch tape. All 24 frames had an image. These aren't perfect images but this camera has been my most successful to date.

Friday, April 27, 2007

More on Tile

We selected our tile. Bought a box last night, took it to the condo and spread it out. It looks great! Now I need 42 more boxes.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Apartment Planning

Tania and I bought a condo. It is a nice little place one block off the Caribbean. Now we have to finish it!
Its been sitting idle for nearly a year, the time since we finalized the paperwork because neither of us wants to deal with this. Our current living situation is provided for by my work, so no worries there, we have a roof over our heads.
We finally bought an air conditioning system which will hopefully be installed next week. Next phase is flooring. Too many choices.
We've decided on a ceramic tile, but now what color and pattern? Again, too many choices!
The project after flooring and a/c is the kitchen. We talked to a design company the other day and hopefully they'll have something for us to look at.
The closets will be the final project.

Insect Noises

Yesterday I did a "group" ride though I didn't really talk to anyone. Most people drove to the rendevous place then started riding from there. Some hardcore riders rode from town.

In my haste, I forgot my money in my car, so that meant no pitstops.

The ride was a ride I've done in the past, from the alacabala (police check-point) at Pertigilete (east of PLC) to Playa Santa Fe, then up the San Pedro river valley, eventually climbing to Los Altos via the back road. The whole route is about 65 km (40 miles) and has a total elevation gain/loss of over 2000 meters (6,000+ ft). Add the heat, it makes it a challenging ride.

Yesterday's ride was no exception except the unusual noises from the birds and insects. Even in the parking lot, there were some wild natural noises, mainly parrots squawking.

I finally pulled out my camera when climbing the San Pedro river valley. I was alone, ahead of the pack (since I had no money for a break at Playa Santa Fe) and climbing up the steady grade. I was enjoying the solitude of the moment; no cars, no other cyclists, no loud salsa music...just me and my bike.

I finished the ride ahead of the pack with only two other riders ahead of me (these guys were hard chargers...incredibly fast climbers). It was a very enjoyable moment overall.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What Can You Buy for $25.00?

Yesterday morning I bought 2 fresh chickens (killed on the spot), a kilo of onions, a handful of sweet peppers, 2 quarts of milk (2%), 2 quarts of orange juice (100%), a large box of Fruit Loops, 2 kilos of salt, a 500 ml bottle of Tropical Fruit Gatoraide, a package of construction paper, a booklet of drawing paper, a toothbrush refill for my electric toothbrush, and a Sunday edition of the local newspaper.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Venezuelan Cocoa (chocolate)

Forget everything you know about cocoa; Herseys, Nestles, etc. Most people don't realize that some of the world's best chocolate (Belgian especially) is made with Venezuelan cocoa.

A real treat is to find raw cocoa from a grower. They'll sell it to you in lumps. During Semana Santa we were travelling through the Barlovento region, known for its cocoa production, when we stopped at a roadside stand to buy some plantains and casava. I saw the little lumps of cocoa dangling there in a cheap plastic bag. I told my wife I wanted some. She said no at first because I'll forget I got it and it'll go bad. I insisted, especially when I heard the price...Bs. 3000 for 3 lumps. That's only $0.75. "Dame dos bolsas." (Give me two bags.) I said. My wife just rolled her eyes when the man handed her the bags of cocoa.

I need to post some pics on how to make the cocoa into hot chocolate. Its very simple...and very tasty!
1. Milk...2 cups in a pan at low heat.
2. Cocoa...1 lump crumbled fine into the milk.
3. Sugar...add about 3 tablespoons to the milk (more if you want it sweeter)
4. Salt...just a pinch added to the milk.
5. Mixer...get out the electric mixer and stir in the cocoa, sugar, and salt into the milk. Try to get the milk frothy. Sometimes I'll pour the milk mixture into the blender to get it real frothy.
6. Taste...add more sugar if needed.
7. Enjoy! Nothing like it!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter in Venezuela

Easter in Venezuela is a week long event called Semana Santa (Holy Week). People flock to the beaches all week, but the real deal starts on the Thursday before Good Friday when the official holiday begins.

Normally the beaches fill up with large crowds with people drinking beer and scotch whisky openly. Venezuelans love their booze and partying on the playa and this week is a great boon to local economies; both formal and informal.

This year, a day before the beginning of Semana Santa, President Hugo Chavez decreed (he has free rein for 18 months in ruling totally by decree) that there would be a "Ley Seca" (Dry Law). This meant no liquor or alcohol sales from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM anywhere, including bars and restaurants in effect till April 9. The Chavismo spin is blaming the evils of capitalism are taking priority over social responsibility.

This decree has taken the wind out of the sails for the holiday. Local businesses estimate they lost the equivalent of about $3,000,000 in the first 3 days of the week. There doesn’t seem to be the rowdiness of years past, and there is certainly less traffic. Some people expressed their opinions by writing on what they think on car windows with white shoe polish, but ultimately prohibition doesn't work, and in an informal observation (riding my bike through the crowds along the local beaches) there still seemed to be plenty of alcohol being consumed, and I'm sure it could be purchased from some entrepreneur with his cooler on the beach.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Latest Kayaking

Did a kayak trip on Sunday with Jeremy and Daniel. It was Jeremy's second trip in the Klepper and Daniel's first. I paddled the single Pouch and the other two were in my Klepper Aerius II. After our break on the beach, I let Jeremy paddle the Pouch back in to the dock. He floundered along and hard time of it.
Fun day!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Who Likes Pudding?

Today I was digging around in the cupboard and found a package of Jello vanilla pudding I had brought down a couple of years ago, so I decided to make it. I am assuming the stuff has an indefinite shelf-life.
I decided it needed a crust so I could make a pie so I went to the store and bought some Venezuelan "Maria" vanilla cookies. Crushed them, added butter to make a crust.
I spread the cookie/butter in a bowl, and poured the pudding into the bowl. I allow it to chill for a couple of hours.
The result is very tasty! Just like when I was a little kid! Tania didn’t like it so much. It’s a very American-type thing, I think.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Sorry no pictures. I laid low for Carnival. Tania went to Anaco to spend time with her family. I stayed in PLC and just watched TV staying away from the crowds. I got out a few times on my bike but just to look around. Too many people!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rocket Launch from Friday, 9 February 2007

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ground Hog Day

I tell my students this is my favorite day of the year. It doesn't really matter here in the tropics but in North America is was always the half-way point to spring, but it also coincides with the half-way point of the school year. We are more than half done! Hard to believe.

Today was a strange day. Most of the students were gone, I only had a hand full. I had them get caught up on some labs and things, and I started building a new two chambered water rocket. It a radical design; a prototype and I already think I am going to have to start over.

We hope to have a two school competition with water rockets in March. The other school has more space and their rocket design is pretty advanced. I am trying new and daring designs to break their records.

If this design works, I hope to incorporate my parachute release system into the next version.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Road Trip part I

Tania and I were headed for the Paria Peninsula when Tania decided she wanted to go to the Gran Sabana. I agreed and we turned around, spent two hours in traffic getting across town again and hit the road. Tania was born in Bolivar but had never been to the Gran Sabana region. Here are some photo highlights.
- new bridge across the Orinoco.

- Hotel Andrea, Upata, Edo. Bolivar. Creative kinetic scuptures made from scrap material...also a good hotel.

- "Deadwood" Venezuela. The sketchiest looking town in Venezuela I've ever been through.

- posada Ya-Koo in Santa Elena de Uriaren. A very nice place.

- raid on Brazil to buy sugar. I zoomed across the border and nobody on either side stopped me or asked any questions (a malaria vaccination is needed for Brazil). I carried back 20 kg of sugar in my messenger bag.