101 in 1001 #49: Bike advocacy volunteering: BTWD 2008

So Thursday was Bike to Work Day, for which I was determined to do something more than just biking to work. After all, every day is already bike to work day in that sense. So I decided to volunteer to help out as an Outreach Host for SVBC at an Energizer Station, to provide information and make contact with potential members, as well as to help manage the station.

My first stop was Outreach Training, where I learned what the goal of being an Outreach Host is and how to talk to people about SVBC. It was a fun night with some pizza and meeting other members of SVBC interested in volunteering.

The day of, I had to be at the Energizer Station by 7 at the latest, so I got up at 6:15, hurried through my prep, and made it to Cal Ave with five minutes to spare. The day was scheduled to be almost 100 degrees, so I brought a hat, sunscreen, sandals to change into, and plenty of water. We were between busy and inundated almost the entire time I was there, from 7 to 9:15 or so (after that we were mostly packed up). We gave away all our new VTA maps and many old ones, all our bags, all the bananas, and most of the bagels and coffeecake, along with lots of coupons, goodies, smiles, and support.

I really enjoyed the experience, even more than the Amgen Tour of California bike parking volunteering, which I didn’t count for this goal’s purpose because the Tour isn’t a bike advocacy event, it’s a competitive event. This was all about supporting utility cycling and traveling by public or self-propelled transit (walkers, skateboarders, scooters, and others are, of course, also welcome at Energizer stations). It was nice to connect with other people who have high bike-to-person ratios in their households and commute or do errands with their bike setups. My bike and pannier setup got some appreciation. I saw the full gamut from kids (in bike seats and trailers, or on their own bikes or trail-a-bikes) to roadies (there was a Webcor Alto Velo photo op at the station around 8, a good follow-on from last week’s BTWW kickoff event at Webcor).

It started to get pretty hot around 8:00, and by 9:25 when I headed out to work it was very hot. I had to stop several times on my ride to cool down and guzzle water, and I was not appreciating the conductivity of my metal water bottle. Every time I had to stop for a stoplight in the sun, my self-created breeze disappeared and I felt like I was melting. But I made it to work all right, even with a bagel stop. The bagel shop employees kindly let me bring in my bike and gave me some tape to make sure the bagel bag stayed shut and attached to my bike.

One of the most encouraging things for me is that this year I got a lot more positive response from my coworkers. Two of them already bike to work either regularly or occasionally, and did on Thursday. Another rides a lot but doesn’t normally commute that way, but decided to map it out and ride in for Bike to Work Day. Three more are considering it, and our CEO said he will ride someday when he doesn’t have meetings. I am hoping for a company BTWD later this summer, maybe when it isn’t 99 degrees outside! If we really get everyone who’s considering it we will have 8 out of the 25 people in the office riding — 30 percent. And everyone else at least appreciates the bagels. :-)

The day ended with a trip down to San Jose for the Bike Away From Work Bash at Gordon Biersch. I wanted to bike down, but work called, so I grabbed a Caltrain and enjoyed more conversation with fellow cyclists. I missed the food at the party, but got drinks and good company, and missing the food only provided an excuse to go to Ben’s later, so it wasn’t so bad. I finally got home, tired and happy, around 10:30.

I’m sure this is only the first of many SVBC volunteering events I’ll be doing, and it was a great start.

101 in 1001: #2 (pizza) and #60 (tennis)

I knocked off a few more of my goals today, as well as doing my taxes (which were actually pretty easy).

#2: Make my own pizza with no help.
This wasn’t a huge deal because I’ve made pizza a number of times as half a team, but I wanted to do it by myself. I planned to also knock off a few more recipes from VWAV — the tomato sauce, and the potato and tempeh sausage pizza (the pizza dough was already checked off, so this was iteration #2 for it). But my potatoes had started photosynthesizing, so there went that plan. Instead I ended up making the sauce and doing caramelized onions and wilted greens with garlic and a sprinkle of parmesan. It was a really nice combo and I enjoyed it a lot. I did more or less make the sauce from VWAV, though the herbs I changed up a little and the amount of tomatoes wasn’t exactly the same as called for. I thought it was a good base, but I should have put in less liquid, which is probably my own fault. The pizza turned out well anyway; it was nice and crispy on the edges and not really at all soggy in the center. Caramelized onions? Take forever, but totally worth it, especially after deglazing the pan with sherry!

#60: See a live tennis match.
My dad came down to help with taxes, so I mentioned to him that I was thinking of going to see the SAP Open exhibition match tonight. He likes tennis, so he decided to come along, and we had a lot of fun. We got there early and were able to see the end of the day session, which turned out to be a great treat — the players (Jesse Levine and Steve Darcis) were very good and there was a lot of excitement and tension at the end. The exhibition match, between Pete Sampras and Tommy Haas, followed. It was just an amazing thing to watch. Those guys are like poetry in motion, and it was fun to watch Sampras basically just dominate, even after being out of the circuit for a few years (though a tiebreak might have been even more fun). There were some nice long rallies, stunning aces, and great smashes. It’s really better to see in person than on TV. You get more replays and angles on TV. But the grace and power are far more impressive in person. I’m really glad I went, and I’ll probably try to go to more live tennis in the future.

I’m happy to be knocking a few more of these off! I think I’m over 20 now.

101 in 1001 #9 & #10: Eating well

As part of becoming aware of what I’m eating, I started keeping a food diary again. Keeping a food diary for me is sort of like keeping a budget. It’s something very picky and obsessive that I do okay with for about a month or two at a time, which is all I really need to do in order to give myself a baseline. I did one over a year ago when I was having trouble eating enough to stay satisfied, to figure out why. Turned out I wasn’t eating enough breakfast then.

So I decided to try it again, mainly to monitor how much I really am eating, when, and why. When I found out about the B12 stuff, it was easy to add keeping track of B12 to the goals of the food diary. (I don’t keep calorie counts but I do record the type and rough amount of food, so it’s pretty detailed.) Another goal it dovetails well with is my goal #9 for the 101: go a whole month without eating random crap as a substitute for any meal.

This goal, I realized, is one of those that I put in there without really thinking about what that actually means, and how I could accomplish it, besides willpower and record-keeping. It turns out that willpower doesn’t really work for me so well in this area. What I think will work is reasonably alert planning. The whole thing is much more complicated physiologically and psychologically than just saying to myself “Ok, I’m going to just eat three good meals a day now.”

What made me finally realize this was what happened when I volunteered at the Amgen Tour of California Prologue yesterday, parking bikes so that people could walk around safely without worrying about their bikes. It was fun, but hard work, and it messed around with my eating schedule because we were volunteering over lunch. I’d been doing reasonably well since starting the diary, but it kind of broke down yesterday.

Here’s what I ate yesterday (in case you all think I’m kidding when I say I don’t always eat very well):

Pineapple cupcake
1/2 blueberry vegan waffle with tofutti cream cheese spread
Coffee with 1/2&1/2 (1/2 cup total)
1/8 bagel with cream cheese
1 pc cranberry bread
Cranberry Almond Cherry Clif Bar
1 lemon sugar cookie
1 fry
1 potato chip
Veggie burger from stall at PA Amgen Tour (at 3:00 pm)
Butternut squash soup (2 smallish bowls, at 9pm)
2 cupcakes (one dessert and one late snack)
3 pcs TJs English toffee (finished the box)

I ate a lot of random stuff, and I didn’t really need to, and I didn’t really need to eat anything after I had dessert at all, except that for some reason I felt like it. My stomach was upset between lunch and dinner, too.

What I think is going te really help me improve my eating is planning and sticking to the plan more. I did plan for the weird eating: I brought the Clif bar and an apple with me, so I knew that I wouldn’t get too hungry before I could get off to eat something. And I probably should have chosen not to eat the veggie burger at all, because fair food is both expensive and not necessarily well-chosen or -prepared. I wasn’t really that hungry, I just wanted a real meal, and I could have said “I’m going home soon, I’ll have real food when I go home.”

The important part of planning for me is going to be not mainly the logistics, which are not that hard, but the confidence that with planning I’m doing the right thing for myself. One thing I’ve learned with the food diary is that I absolutely need to eat a reasonably-sized nutritious breakfast, and that it’s going to be better if I just stick to a routine most of the time because then I won’t get caught up in other things and forget, or run out, or want to eat something else but not get around to it. Now that I know that, I’m more confident about doing it and about believing that I can make it between breakfast and lunch without eating if I do it.

I’ve also discovered that if I have to go more than four hours between meals I will really want a snack, and if one is easily available I will want to eat it even if I don’t really need it because food will be here in an hour. I also won’t really go more than six hours without food, even if a real meal is only 20-30 minutes away, if there’s something that’s available quickly. So if I don’t eat a snack, and I get home at 7, I’ll eat something random before I eat dinner if dinner isn’t already ready, which will leave me weirdly full and then weirdly hungry later and I’ll eat snacks, and then I won’t sleep as well or be properly hungry for breakfast and the whole cycle repeats. It’s amazing how realizing what I really need in the food department, rather than what society dictates, and planning for it, makes everything run better.

A lot of this also ties in to eating too much too quickly, and that sort of thing. There are steps I can take to work on that, as well, once I understand why I’m gulping (often because I’m very hungry; I can eat a snack occasionally to maintain reasonable hunger levels). So I think I’m well on my way to solving this problem in the long term, not just in the “well, for a month I tortured myself to reach my goal” sense.

Relatedly, #10 I knocked off! At Mudai on Friday, we ordered one veggie combo, and I ate less than half. I was quite full, but I was prudent in how full and ordered and ate wisely, so I consider that one done.

101 in 1001 #88: See the SF Symphony live

A few days ago I got a message from the San Francisco Symphony about a deal they were running on a bunch of concerts: all remaining tickets $25 or $55, if purchased through today. I looked through the list and noticed a couple that interested me, including one that was tonight. Resphigi’s Fountains of Rome was on the program, which I thought I recalled having some good clarinet bits. It turned out I was thinking of the Pines of Rome rather than the Fountains, but I’m still glad I went. Since it was on short notice most people were busy, and I ended up going with my dad. We went out to dinner first, which made the whole thing more of a fun event — definitely needed since it was pouring rain this afternoon and evening. After calling around about a table in a few places in the area (note to self: don’t try to make dinner reservations on a Saturday night in a hopping area of San Francisco starting at 5:30 when you have to eat before a concert at 8), we ended up at a wine bar on Market called Cav.

Unlike going to the SF Symphony, going to a wine bar has never been on my to-do list in life. I like wine, and I’ve learned a bit about it since I moved here, but I’m not into it particularly. Wine people are sometimes snooty, and the food at a wine bar often isn’t the main attraction. Fortunately, this wine bar turned out to be great. It was definitely ‘hip’, but the people behind the bar were friendly and helpful, and the food was excellent. I had butternut squash ravioli with little turnip cubes and swiss chard, and it was really way beyond my expectations. I always like butternut squash, and I figured it would be some nice big ravioli with your standard thick puree inside. Instead, it was the kind of dish you end up dreaming about several years later when you realize you haven’t been back and now the place is closed and you can’t have anymore. The ravioli were small and delicate, the squash filling was pureed and very sweet but light, the turnips were flavorful and not bitter, and the sauce was a clear one, light and salty enough to counterbalance the sweetness of the squash.

I knew that that’s what I was going to have when I came, because it was the only vegetarian entree, so when I was picking a wine I did keep in mind what I’d be eating it with. I ended up picking a pinot blanc from Skylark Wine Company, which was really nice and just as described, fruity with a bit of weight (those are my words — they said something about tangerines and nuts). Funny enough, the guy told me that the wine would go well with the dish. So I guess I’m not as clueless as I sometimes think I am, or else I’m just lucky. We were both right; they went well together.

But to get to the actual point of this post, the concert was excellent. The highlight of the evening actually turned out not to be the Fountains, but rather the Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra by Bruch. The violinist, James Ehnes, was almost certainly the best violinist I’ve ever heard perform. After a while of listening to him I realized that he sounds exactly like I expect a violin should sound. He had an extremely pure and clear sound, and a great deal of precision. Everything was just so, but he was still very expressive as well. I also found it mildly hilarious that he is from Brandon, Manitoba. 1) Canadian! 2) Brandon?! (Brandon, it turns out, is near Winnipeg, actually a town of 50K+ people and the second-largest city in Manitoba, and not all that far from Fargo, in the realm of “places I’ve been”.)

Overall, while I enjoyed the concert a lot, I found the SF Symphony less mindblowing than I suppose I had expected. I think it’s because I’ve been terribly spoiled for hearing excellent orchestras, from NMSO to the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra, from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to the UC Berkeley University Symphony Orchestra. The SFS is definitely a cut above all of these, but it’s also costly and doesn’t provide me with good seating pretty much automatically. Yes, I said I was spoiled.

Still, I was highly impressed. It’s everything a top-notch symphony should be, plus a certain extra delicacy of touch and increased precision. I particularly noticed that the orchestra only once got to the volume where music, for me, disintegrates into noise. This tends to happen to me fairly often during loud pieces, but they definitely brought the intensity without bringing the noise.

The principal woodwinds (the only ones I’m really fit to judge) are definitely mindblowingly good. The clarinettist was highly fluid and navigated incredible intervals without the slightest squeak. The oboe and English horn tones were distinctively double-reed without being nasal in the least, and the bassoonist executed some amazing high notes. The flute solos were smooth and clear.

I also tremendously enjoyed watching Vladimir Ashenkazy conduct. I love his playing (many of the piano recordings I have are of him) and so it’s a treat to see what he can do in another realm. He has clear and descriptive movements, but doesn’t seem to have to exhort the orchestra as some conductors do; he has the kind of energy that often results in dancing conductors, but with a groundedness that keeps the music stable and him from actually dancing off into the air.

To top it off, the symphony hall is also quite beautiful. The place is pleasantly warm from pink tones without being too pink, and the organ behind the orchestra is amazing to look at. I can only imagine how it must sound! From the outer lobby, you get a view of City Hall.

I’m looking forward to going back to see them in May, this time for Brahms’ German Requiem, which I absolutely adore. If that doesn’t blow my mind, I don’t know what will.

More 101: progress & completions update

Doing my 101 post about MoAD, I realized that I’m quite behind on updating some of my goals, so I moved the original post over and updated it with my progress — which still isn’t as much as I was hoping.

I also think I need some way of telling which goals are in progress or partially completed, because it’s depressing looking at the fact that I’ve only completed 15% of the goals and 30% of the time has passed. I was quite surprised to find it’s nearly a year since I started my 101. I’m still finding it somewhat motivating to look at the list, but less so. I’m realizing now that only part of motivation comes from seeing good ideas in front of you. The rest seems to come from somewhere that’s a bit more intermittent for me! But I’m hoping to do a few more soon.

I’m also still enjoying things that I decide to do outside the 101, just because I feel like it. I bought a jigsaw puzzle last week and am more than half done with it. I’m really enjoying it; doing a puzzle like that is a kind of meditation for me, and I like the way you can take a methodical approach and things gradually fit together, yet there’s some randomness involved, too. I’ve also made a lot of new recipes that have nothing to do with the recipes I listed, or with Vegan with a Vengeance, yet have still been cool and exploratory, like Kasha Varnishkes and “Green-wa” from Yellow Rose Recipes. I’m working on becoming a volunteer at the Peninsula Humane Society, although it’s turning out to be a challenge to fit it with my schedule. Depending on how that works out, I think I might use it in place of tutoring as a general ‘become a volunteer and help out’ goal.

Anyway, a couple of major updates:

#4: Completed! I didn’t wimp out, I baked treats for work for every month that had a birthday. I’m not doing it again this year because it’s kind of stressful, though it was great for my baking skills and really rewarding to have things so well-received.
#48: Completed! I’ve gotten really involved with SVBC (PBPC re-aligned with SVBC and is now the Peninsula Committee thereof, which is still most of the meetings I go to), doing rides (I even organized my first group ride, another thing I was really happy about outside the 101), participating in meetings and events, and serving on bike-related committees. I like the people that I meet, and I love having cyclists to chat with about the common issues. And best of all I’m making Silicon Valley a better place for cycling.
#62: One good thing about getting a head injury is that it finally motivated me to go to the doctor, and I scheduled an appointment for a physical while I was there, so, this will be completed in a few weeks!
#69: Finally got a digital camera! It was a gift, but it was one I requested specifically. It’s nice to be able to just take a few snapshots whenever I want (as long as I remember the camera).
#77: I mentioned learning to knit, but failed to note that it is goal #77 on the list. I’m now working on a scarf.
#96: Save $100 every month this year. I did this! And I even saved more, though how I don’t know, since I rather fell off the budget wagon. That’s a goal that, while completed, doesn’t seem to have solved the fundamental problem. : ) The money is now happily baking in a high-interest savings account.

In recent, active progress:

#8 VwaV recipes: I made a couple more over the holidays and have plans to make White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup soon
#25 Recently visited Wunderlich County Park (San Mateo County) — delightful place!
#35 Museums (MoAD was #2)
#97 Watching Buffy (on S3 now)
#99 Read Someone Comes to Town, Somone Leaves Town
#100 European History (maxed out my two biographies by reading about Queen Victoria and Mary Queen of Scots)