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Nov. 19, 2007

I'm not gone, just busy. News you've been breathlessly awaiting:

» We hosted a Halloween party. Ellen was a corked bat, I the Black Sox scandal. Howard Hughes, Bob's Big Boy and disgraced NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak all showed up. (The theme was "Scandal!" It turned out to be harder to dress for than we thought, since most scandals are perpetrated by white men in suits, and it takes a special person to make that fun.) We had way too much food and enjoyed a net gain of 12 beers.

» We bought a tandem. I still haven't taken a picture yet, but it's a 35-year-old Schwinn, canary yellow, made in Chicago. The brakes could use some modernizing but otherwise it runs great. We should all run so well at 35. There are two great things about a tandem: You cannot help but smile when you are riding it. Likewise it is impossible not to smile when you see two fools riding one down the street. It is a smile maker.

Between us we now own 10 bikes: Two mountain bikes, three racing bikes, a track bike, a cyclocross bike, a touring bike, a fixed-gear bike and the tandem.

» I've gotten better at cyclocross. I'm still terrible at the technical aspects, but I'm learning to ration my energies, and several of the courses have been well suited to my inabilities.

I've discovered one more reason why it appeals to me: It's slow. It's an odd confession for a bike racer, the fact that I don't actually enjoy going fast. But it's true: I've always preferred to go up mountains than down them, and motoring across the grass at 15 mph is a much happier time than riding elbow-to-elbow in a criterium at 30 mph. Plus, falling is less traumatic.

» I've taken on the redesign of my team's Web site. It's a difficult job: The site has to be complex enough to meet our needs but simple enough that even a cyclist can use it.

It's been about 12 years since I taught myself Perl and HTML -- back in the days when we bloggers had to write our own darn CMS's, back before we even had the word "blog", back when Pico was my text editor of choice and 28.8 baud felt fast -- and I haven't taught myself much since. I feel a little bit like unfrozen-caveman coder. So much has changed!

The challenges that pop up are great, but the greater a problem, the more satisfying the "Aha!" moment at its resolution. Several times I have leaped from my desk to celebrate a minor victory. I bounce into the living room and try to explain to Ellen why being able to rescue a deleted MySQL table is a big deal for me, if not a minor miracle.

As if this isn't enough to keep me busy, I'm also on a task force to improve safety at races. And I'm part of a four-man team to guide the development of new racers. And I'm trying to keep CBR fresh. And I'm trying to finish my test for my Level 2 coaching license. And I'm trying to get back into serious training-mode.

» I didn't write about it at the time because I didn't want to alarm my mother more than I already had, but I lost a second teammate this summer in a freak racing crash. One of the many cruelties of the loss was discovering what amazing young man he had been. We had hints while he was alive, but few of us were lucky enough to have seen him in full bloom.

Among other things, Pieter was an accomplished photographer, I came to learn, and this week his work went on display at a Michigan Avenue gallery. He was his own subject in many of his photos, so visiting the exhibit was like a reunion with an old friend. And as I rode by on my commute this morning and saw him through the window, I had the urge to wave hello.

Photo taken by E. Wight: Nov. 3, 2007