Monday, May 31, 2010

Daddy Did The Double Down

One of the things I like so much about 52 Projects is the freedom to be inspired. This project is one of those things where ideas and opportunity align and inspiration hits hard.

A few weeks ago I read a thread on a triathlon message board about a new meal at Kentucky Fried Chicken. It's two slabs of breaded and fried chicken breast with cheese, bacon, and some creamy sort of sauce in between. At first I didn't even think it was a real menu item. What restaurant would really sell such disgustingly decadent deadly deliciousness?

Surprise, it is real!

As much as I know how horribly unhealthy it is, how many calories and grams of salt laden fat it contains, how against the laws of nature it may be, I had to have one. I didn't know when I would do it, but I knew I would. It was only a matter of time. As much as a firey crash is only a matter of time for a race car driver.

That time came on Friday. We were heading out of town for a family wedding and needed to grab a quick bite on the road. We turned at the last light before the highway entrance and there it was; a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant. That's when I knew. It was time.

I would tell you I'll never do it again but that may be a lie. It was delicious in that this-is-so-wrong- kind of way. I could feel my arteries clog as I sat there enjoying the gooey, salty, greasy yumminess of it all.

Colonel Sanders, I salute you!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ride of Silence

Last Sunday on my training ride I had a fellow cyclist ask me if I'd heard about the Ride of Silence. I had not. It is a nationwide undertaking to honor those who have been killed and injured while cycling. The intent is to raise awareness and to encourage motorist and cyclist to share the road.

On Wednesday night we met at the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. After a brief ceremony hundreds of cyclist of all types took a slow silent ride through the streets of the city, returning about a hour later to the Art Museum. It was a power and moving experience.

I've had some close calls, got bumped once by an elderly woman, and have a couple of near road rage incidents. I'm embarrassed to say I was the one in a rage. I've been know to flip off assholes, but a car is a lot bigger than a bike so I'm learning to keep it to myself. There are so many unaware or distracted drivers out there. We all need to pay more attention; cyclists and motorist.

Here is a GPS view of the actual ride from my Garmin. The green line is the route. Kinda hard to see, but it's there.

Here are cell phone pics from the ride

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dyed? Who Dyed?

Anyone remember I Love Lucy? We used to love watching that show when I was a kid. There was one series of episodes where Lucy and Ethel were driving across country for some crazy Lucy reason. She ended up hitchhiking or picked up a hitchhiker, but there was a woman who was sure Lucy was an escaped killer, and Lucy thought she was the killer. They wound up at a truck stop diner and the woman was trying to raise the suspicions of the waitress. She pointedly asked Lucy if her hair was dyed. Lucy screamed out, "Died? Who died??"

But I digress....

I did it. I cheated. This week for 52 Projects I am holding on to last week's hemp theme and decide to buy more and dye it. I want to make another plant hanger or two and use some color and decided on a two toned black and red look. Very basic, very sophisticated. I am so all that :)

So, off to the store for more hemp and some Rit dye. The instructions are written such that you need a proton microscope to read them so I went to the Rit web site and found nice, easy to read directions. What did we do before the Interwebs?

I decided to do the "sink or bucket" method since we have a nasty dirty stained slop sink the basement. Yup... just like yours. I was glad it was not the sink or swim method though my swim pace is about 1:50 per 100 yds. But, again, I digress.

First, wash the hemp in hot water. I had already cut it in the desired lengths and knotted them together in bundles.

Pre-mix the dye in really hot water

Add the premixed dye to - you guessed it; hot water

Add the material to the dye solution

Swish the material around for 10 - 30 minutes. 10 - 30? Really? That's a pretty wide margin. I went with about 15.

Oh, just before you are ready to drain the tub make sure to remember that you forgot to add some extra lengths of rope for wrapping around the ring and for making the top and bottom Alpine coil knots

Let the dye solution run out of the tub

Rinse the material in, wait, what was that? Oh yeah, hot water that gets progressively cooler until it runs clear. The progressively cooler part was not hard since "somebody" decided to run the dishwasher and take a shower at the same time, while I was working. How can an artist create under these conditions? I was so distraught I have no pictures of the rinsing process

After rinsing, wash the material in, wait for it... hot water, and then rinse with progressively cooler water.

Allow to dry. I hung it on a chair in the driveway.

Hemp is interesting stuff. The water turned a yellowish brown when I washed it and the wet hemp had a strong, musky, almost manure like smell. It also swelled a bit and curled up on itself. Once I got done all the dying and washing and rinsing I untangled it as best I could to let it hang dry. I'll keep you posted on how it progresses with drying. I did find a web site where the author posts several steps about conditioning and dyeing hemp. I may follow some of the post dyeing steps.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Duuuude, it's like, hemp.

This is one of those projects that I've been wanting to do for a long time and 52 Projects finally gave me the impetus to just do it. Once I made the decision I was charged up with excitement and all sorts of ideas. I even chose to work on this rather than run or swim on Saturday, and I very rarely blow of workouts. So, what got me so jacked up? Macrame!

Here's the story. My father always had a lot of house plants when I was growing up. He had them all over the house and took meticulous care of them. He'd haul them out to the kitchen table every so often and water them with a bulb baster, tracking every drop of water in a marble composition book. Can you see where I get some of my anal retentive tendencies? After my father passed, I inherited many of his plants. One in particular was an Asparagus Fern that used to hang in the kitchen window above the sink. I've had it with me in several places I lived and for the past few years it was in my cube at work. I re-potted it a couple of times and it needed it again. Badly. What it also needed was a throw back circa 1974 macrame plant hanger. No problem, right? Just head over to the Home Depot garden section. Nope. Lowes? Nope. Local garden center? Nope. Google? Well, there were a few but nothing that really grabbed me. This needed to be just right. Jane had supposedly found some in a thrift store. She even called me to ask if she should buy them. Hello?? Of course!! But for some reason, she didn't. That was the last straw. Only one thing to do; make one!

Like a good child of the '70s I went straight to Google to figure out what to do. I looked at several instruction pages before settling on this one. It seemed easy enough. I spent my lunch hour Friday at AC Moore, Michael's and Home Depot gathering the supplies (hemp, beads, and rings)

and spent a good part of Friday night reading the instructions and getting started.

First I wrapped the ring for the top

Then I measured out the strands

I attached the strands to the ring

Then I started knotting like mad

I was so excited I spent all my free time on Saturday re-potting plants

and working on the hanger. I tried all sorts of knots and twists and braids. I used some cool aqua and black beads but had to drill out the center hole to accommodate the rope.

I had to check the size against the pot. The instructions were very vague as far as sizing. They were pretty vague on a lot of things.

And then........... it was done!!

The fern looks happier already (maybe not to you but I know it is.) Just wait a few weeks and I'll post again and you see how much it's grown in its new hang out.

I learned quite a bit from this adventure and know that the next one I make will be much better. The instructions were very simple, maybe too simple, and included what I thought was a huge error; she states to start with 16 strands, but you only need 8. You double them over at the ring and that's where you get 16. Try it, you'll see.

Some other things I learned;

Working on the floor is uncomfortable
It's hard to concentrate when the tv is on
It's difficult to picture the hanger in 3D when it's laying flat on the floor
Cut your strands at least 50% longer than you think you'll need. Knots make the ropes shorter :)
Keep the strands tight or the knots will not be tight
Pay attention to which way you tie knots so the others will be symmetrical ( if you want symmetry)
Pay attention to the diameter of the strands compared to the diameter of beads (if you want to use beads)
Pay attention to which way things twist. Once you tie them together they won't untwist. That's the good news and the bad news

I am already planning on at least two more. For one I am going to experiment with dying the hemp. Is it cheating if I use that for 52 Projects? I've never dyed hemp rope before.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Shopping Trip

I decided to do something a bit different for 52 Projects this week. I'll admit that I didn't have much planned before Friday or so, and that I've not been as excited as I was a few weeks ago. With the warmer weather here, K-Dog playing softbal, and my training picking up I haven't been planning properly and the last couple of weeks were sort of fly by the seat of my pants. I will say, though, that I noted in my very first 52 Projects post that some of my projects would be last minute wing it kind of things. I will do better moving forward because I really do think this is a great idea and I want to be a part of it, and be an active, present, and thoughtful part of it.

Which brings us to this week. As some may know, Jane and I have been church shopping. I have been a member for over 20 years of a Unity church, which is part of the Association of Unity Churches and the Unity School of Christianity. It is a scripture based Christian church that digs deeply into the metaphysics of the Bible. Charles and Myrtle Fillmore founded the Unity movement in the late 1800's and it's been going strong ever since.

The church I belonged to was in Philadelphia, then moved to NJ. My ex wife and I eventually moved to NJ too. We were very involved there and raised our kids there. I've served on the Board of Directors, acted as Ministry Head for various ministries, and had a strong commitment to the Church. To make a long story short, as years went by, I felt less and less fulfilled there. I stopped going as often, especially after my marriage ended. My ex still went (she still does) and it was awkward at times. She and I had been a strong couple there and it was hard for us, and hard for others to see us apart.

Anyway, fast forward to now. I live about 22 miles away and it takes a good 45 minutes to get there. Getting home is even worse, trying to get across the city on a Sunday afternoon. Jane and I have been several times (the Senior Minister married us) but it just doesn't feel like home for either of us. There is much good there, and maybe if it were closer there wouldn't be as much of an issue. But, maybe not. Even when I was single and lived much closer I didn't go regularly. It no longer felt like home.

So... we've been shopping, and today we went to the Main Line Unitarian Church, part of the Universalist Unitarian movement. We went to a different Unitarian chrch a few weeks ago but weren't too crazy about it. This one felt much better and we will be going back.

Here's the 52 Projects part; I actually engaged with other people there. I was open with them and talked about myself. I even introduced myself to the Senior Minister. In our previous shopping experiences I've pretty much kept to myself and didn't reach out or talk with others unless spoken to, and then it was just superficial pleasantries. This time I asked questions, talked about my previous church experiences, even shared with one woman that I have a 12 step background. I never talk about that. If felt really good to put myself out there and be open to a new experience. I'm not sure that this will be my new church home but it's the closest we've come so far. I'll keep you posted :)

Ok, this is freaky; a very good friend of mine from Unity (the old church) just called to check in on me. How weird is that???