Saturday, September 29, 2007

ID the Poo

My last post mentioned some poo I found on a local bike trail. Matt-J thought it might be mountain lion poo. I had thought of that, because it's commonly known that a mountain lion lived in the area a couple years ago.

I found the thread about it on the local mountain bike site (MORC).

The thread is pretty funny, but it's serious too. I used to ride that trail at dawn with regularity. After reading about the cougar, I've been less eager to place myself in that situation.

The funniest comment is the one that says people will start inviting slow riders along for their group rides. I assume, they mean the cougar will eat the slow rider first.

The photo of the mountain lion I inserted here is from the thread. Scroll down in the thread several comments to see the photo. Click on it for a larger size version.

I did a tiny bit of research and found that cougar poop is about the size of a large dog turd and is usually filled with hair. It is segmented and has rounded ends. This describes what I saw on the trail pretty well. The internet sites I found that had photos were old dried up scat. The stuff I saw yesterday was still glistening. If I had taken a photo of it, I would apparently have the only fresh looking cougar poo photos on the internet.

Of course, this is not definitive. It may have been from another animal.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lunchtime Ride -- Offroad

Today's lunchtime ride was great even though I rode alone. I chose the Minnesota River Bottoms, but only rode the east end, east of Lyndale Ave, that is. I encountered four other riders. I noticed that a couple of them had 29ers. It's easy to spot those big tires, even when passing oncoming single-track traffic.

I performed trail maintenance by cleaning up three piles of dog poop. At least I think they were dog poop. I just missed the first pile and decided to stop and get it off the trail. I've ridden through it before and figured it would be best to save someone else from having crap sprayed on their helmet, jersey and bike.

Not far down the trail, I saw another pile. I used the same reasoning to justify stopping and moving this beauty off the trail also. When I encountered the third pile, I was a little ticked off. I mean, that's a lotta poop! Each time, I grabbed a branch from the trailside and just flicked the offensive material into the weeds. But the third pile was extra ugly. It looked like the owner of the poop had eaten a gray haired thing. The poop had lots of hair in it.

I'm not even sure it was left by a dog. Although, if a dog ate a bunny, it might result in this style of poop. All the piles were exactly in the middle of the trail. At first I figured they were left a by a hiker's dog, but I'm not so sure now. I imagined wild, or mostly free-running dogs could be the owners of the piles. Most dog owners are more careful and it seems unlikely that it would happen three times in so short a distance. They were freshies too.

Anyway, if you ride the MN Riverbottom trail, thank me for your poop-free experience.

And the ride was great today because riding is great, not because I got to examine too much scat. That was really just an interesting side note.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lunchtime Bike and Bridges Photo

Today's lunchtime ride took me down Minnehaha Creek to Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun. I've always liked the little pathway bridges they have along the creek. I've taken lots of photos of them, some with bikes in the frame.

Here are a couple from the cell-phone camera. Minneapolis just finished rebuilding the bridges and they did a great job.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pedro the Acorn Squash

My son moved to middle school this year and has a new friend, Pedro. Pedro is an acorn squash. My wife joked about baking Pedro with butter (the preferred cooking method for squash). My son was not having any part of that.

"What happens when Pedro rots," my wife asked?

"He's better as compost, than being eaten. At least then he'll go back to the earth," my son answered.

We'll see where this goes.

Saturday's HC Ride

Last Saturday, I rode the HC ride for the first time in many weeks. I've had lots of things filling my Saturday morning schedule. I've missed the ride and enjoy the company of the motley crew that attends.

These guys had on electric clothing.

This bike is orange with purple panels. I didn't think these two colors would look good together, but this bike is beautiful, despite the quality of the cell-phone camera image.

Back to the Aster Cafe on St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis for coffee and pastries. This place serves beer too. Maybe I'll come by some afternoon when I have nothing better to do.

This little bird hopped around under our chairs while we drank coffee outdoors.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Soccer 3

The cake was not poison!

My soccer team is scheduled to play every Tuesday and Thursday night. Our last two games have been cancelled due to weather. Tuesday was cancelled because of rain, but we took team photos indoors. Last night's game was cancelled due to rain, lightning, and a tornado watch (or was it a warning?).

It's too bad, because I've found some fun, new soccer drills for 8 and 9 year olds. They love drills that seem more like games than drills. I found lots of excellent videos of soccer drills on YouTube. That's one of the great things about the internet. There is so much relevant and useful information available.

If I don't mention the other side, someone will bring it up. There's lots of crap out there too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Did I Just Eat Poison Cake?

We have a really unsafe behavior in the office where I work. Here's an example:

I just walked back from the bathroom and saw two of my coworkers eating delicious looking pieces of crumb cake. I made an immediate about face and marched into the kitchen like a zombie, cut a piece for myself, and took it back to my desk. I ate about half of it before I asked myself these questions, "Where did this come from?" and "Who brought this?"

A bad person could kill off most of the people in our office in about half an hour with a poison cake. We routinely eat anything on the break-room table without questioning the contents. Maybe next time, I'll find out who brought it before digging in.

If you want to see a reasonable facsimile of how quickly a piece of this crumb cake disappeared, watch this little video, but imagine it at twice the speed.

Monday, September 17, 2007

My kid said ...

This weekend, we stayed at a friend's cabin in the Wisconsin woods. During the morning my daughter was singing a monotonous, two-word song for much longer than necessary. I was working to ignore it when my son told her that if she didn't stop it, he was going to dress her up as a buck and shove her in the woods.

Soccer Report 2

I had my first soccer game of the season last night with the 2nd and 3rd graded girls team I'm coaching. My daughter is one of the playes. The association that runs this league calls it micro soccer. The kids play three-on-three with no goalie on a very reduced field size. This keeps everyone playing. Every player gets lots of touches.
It's a fast game with lots of goals and everyone goes home tired. My goal is to get them to have fun playing soccer and teach them a few fundamentals that might stick.

We don't keep score. I'm sure some of those people who think we're ruining kids by not forcing them to compete wouldn't like that. I don't think the score is important, because we don't have refs so the game is not fair in the first place. The kids try to keep score anyway. It's funny to hear their numbers after the game. One girl told another the score was 12 to 2. I know I saw the other team put in at least 6 goals.

Another unique item of this league is that we split into two teams and play two games at the same time. I coached one game and the other coach took care of the other game. After the game, I asked one of the girls how it went in her game. She's very talented and seems pretty grown up so I was interested in her opinion. She said it went terrible. Why, I asked. She said it was because I'm a terrible coach.

I'll make sure to ask her each game and see what else she has to say. Is this her talking or her parents? Her father is an British guy who plays soccer, er correction, football and made sure I knew it on the first night.

This will be fun.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hot Sauces

I go through phases of using hot sauces. Right now, I'm on a Cholula kick. I like Cholula because it doesn't have the vinegar taste of those Louisiana style sauces.

This bottle is an extra large 10 incher (250mm for you metric people). I should have put something next to it in the photo for scale.

It's nearly empty. What should I buy next?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Anti Bike Theft Plan via Treehugger

This anti-bike theft program doesn't sound as satisifying as the one I have in mind, but it's the best thing I've heard of.

The program: cops attach a GPS beacon to a bait bike and allow it to be stolen. Then they track the bike and arrest the thief. It appears to be reducing bike thefts, according to the story.

My buddies and I, who have had bikes stolen, have another idea that involves a bait bike. The next step in our plan is much less high tech than GPS though. Our plan involves a pipe and some violence. I'm not serious, but at some point after having something stolen, those thoughts go through our heads.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My First Ride at Murphy Hanrehan

I rode the new mountain bike trail at Murphy Hanrehan park in Savage, MN with some friends on Saturday. This is a new trail that replaces an old one. The old was us, to use the trail builders' vernacular, unsustainable. I know the people who maintained the trail hauled lots of dirt and gravel in there each year to rebuild the trail that was damaged by erosion. Some of the hills went straight up fall lines.

I'll miss one of those hills, the Vomitron. It made me want to vomit after riding up it. It was steep enough and long enough to break a rider's spirit, then it turned a little to the left and got steeper and the traction became more difficult. I started riding that trail when I was 31 and thought it was a hoot. At 43, I thought it was a hork -- as in hork up my last meal.

Well, the Vomitron is gone and somehow replaced with a trail that never seems to go up much and feels like it goes down most of the time. I don't know how that works. The trail definitely goes up, but it's so gradual that I never felt as if I were climbing. The new trail is very twisty and has a few obstacles built in. You can walk around or bypass them all and the obstacles are rare enough to not break up the flowing feel of the trail.

The trail passes in and out of woods and prairies. The contrast makes it memorable. Late summer wild flowers covered the prairie areas in a most distracting way. Staring at wild flowers while single tracking can cause problems, so don't hesitate to hesitate.

The trail is about 10 miles long and the majority of it is one-way traffic. I'm looking forward to taking a few of my other riding friends out there. My wife and a certain sister-in-law will love it. My sister-in-law is the type of rider that lets out hoots and hollers when she's having fun. It makes riding with her something to look forward to. Fun follows her.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Canning Salsa

My father-in-law is well known among family and friends as a canner. His salsa is the best. It's flavor grew on me and I regularly crave it. Last weekend, I was fortunate to be allowed to can salsa with him. He gave me guidance and I did the work.

His recipe varies, but the result is always similar -- a sweet salsa with lots of bite. He's a man of few words and you know the latest salsa batch is good when he declares that, "It's not too bad."

Here's the recipe for the day.

All the ingredients are in the pot and I'm stirring them. At this point the kitchen smelled so good I wanted to bottle the smell for sale.

He has lots of old canning books laying around that are fun to look at. He also builds jigsaw puzzles.

The salsa is cooked and I'm transferring it to pint jars. We canned 24 pints that day.

Here are the jars with sealed lids sitting in hot water.

Here's a box of previously canned items: pickles, green beans, and tomatoes.

The George Jones music we listened to while canning added to a relaxed atmosphere that lasted all day for me, even after the canning was complete.

We tried a little salsa for lunch and it was declared as, "Not too bad."


This is a story told to me by my cousin who recently moved to Omaha from Utah. When his friends heard he was moving to Nebraska, one of them asked why he was moving. The conversation, according to my cousin, goes something like this.
Woman: "Why are you moving to Lebraska?"
Woman's husband: "It's not Lebraska. It's 'neh', N - E."
Woman: "Why are you moving to Nelebraska?"
Wow. It's funny to hear stories about people who are so insulated from the rest of the world.

Soccer Coach 2007

I'm coaching my daughter's 2nd and 3rd grade girls soccer team. I coached my kids' soccer teams a few times in the past and have never felt comfortable with my coaching skills. Maybe this season will be better and I have realistic hopes that it will be.

I attended a coaching clinic that really helped me understand what the kids need. One of the fundamentals the clinic taught was that kids need to touch their soccer ball as many times as possible during practice. (Note that I worded that last sentence very carefully and it still sounds questionable.)

With that in mind, I'm avoiding the types of drills that require lots of explanation and standing in lines. Last season, I was an assistant coach. I had attended the same clinic and was really looking forward to putting the clinic's lessons into action. However, the head coach was not buying it and she had the kids standing in lines and listening to lots of lecture stuff. Because I'm the head coach this season, I am running it the way I learned in the clinic.
Another reason to be optimistic is that the kids are older than in past seasons. 2nd and 3rd graders can pay attention for a few more seconds than K and 1st graders. Those seconds are just what I need to get in an explanation and then get them moving again.

Last night was my first practice and it was a blast. The kids said they had fun and I believe them. I kept them busy doing fun drills. The drills were really just games like tag with a soccer ball. I bet none of them have ever had as many kicks during a practice before. I didn't let them scrimmage. I'll save that for next practice. It's obvious that some of them really want to compete. Some people are born competitors and some like to rub dirt in their hair. But no matter which type they were, they were tired and had fun.

This will be fun. I'll update my blog about it and try to put the word "soccer" in the title so you can ignore it if you want. If you ignore the soccer posts, I

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Omaha Bike Trails

On my recent trip to Omaha to help my dad move, I noticed Omaha has added lots of bike trails. This is good for more than the obvious reasons. I used to ride there in the '80s on my road bike when I visited my dad. Omaha is very hilly and I loved to go out of town and ride hills until my legs fell off. As Omaha spread out and traffic got worse, the pleasant, paved country roads turned into shoulderless, heavily trafficed death traps. I have never felt safe riding on those roads after the traffic increased.
I wondered where I would ride if, god forbid, I lived there. At least I only had to visit.
Over the past several years, the bike trails have appeared all over. I picked up an Omaha bike trail map (PDF link) at a bike shop and realized I could now ride to my favorite off-road bike trail using paved bike trails. I plotted my route and found my way very easily. I was impressed with what they've done. I bet the trails are primarily used by recreational riders instead of commuters, but it's a great improvement over the past. Maybe the trails lead road bikers to safer roads also. With the addition of all these paved bike trails, I look forward to my next visit. However, I'll only be visiting my in laws instead of my dad. I'll have to go to California to see him now. I wonder if they have places to ride there?
Side note: The bike shop (Bikemasters) I visited is very into 29ers. This was nice. They also have a nice work area where they keep demo bikes and swap parts on them. They had demo forks, seats, and handlebars that people could swap and try. I'd like to try some Mary bars. They had them, but I didn't have time for all that.

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