My 2016 Reading Challenge

Last night I finished reading book number 13 out of 52 planned for 2016.

According to the Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge, this puts me at 25% complete for the year. Barely into the second month and I’m eight books ahead of schedule. I suppose there will be weeks where I have other happenings that make it difficult to put in the time to ingest a full book in less than 7 days.

Check out my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Although I don’t have a roadmap of books to be read, I’ve already purchased the next dozen or so books that interest me to be read in no particular order.

The fulfillment I feel after completing each book makes me sense my time was spent reaching a worthy goal. My vocabulary, mental imaging, and appreciation for good writing feel enlightened rather than deadened as time goes on.

I’ll check in after the next 25% of the challenge is completed.

Now, go read a M-F’ing Book.

-Tomas

Reading List – 2015

I started 2015 off pretty strong with a lot of reading, then had some months where I barely read at all. But overall, I’m pretty happy with the number of books I’ve read especially in the last few weeks of the year.

Here’s a list of all the books I’ve read in 2015, in no particular order:

  1. Stickeen – John Muir
  2. My First Summer in the Sierra – John Muir
  3. Ghost Trails – Jill Homer
  4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig
  5. Life in the Slow Lane – David Cornthwaite
  6. Janapar – Tom Allen
  7. Art Before Breakfast – Danny Gregory
  8. Digital Photography for Beginners – Crys Kirkland
  9. Iggy Peck, Architect – Andrea Beaty, David Roberts
  10. Rosie Revere, Engineer – Andrea Beaty, David Roberts
  11. Sketchnote Handbook – Mike Rohde
  12. Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor – Jon Scieska
  13. Telephone – Mac Barnett, Jen Corace
  14. Look Up! – Annette LeBlanc Cate
  15. Nerdy Birdy – Aaron Reynolds, Matt Davies
  16. National Wildlife Federation’s World of Birds – Kim Kirki
  17. How We Learn – Benedict Carey
  18. The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday
  19. Desert Solitaire – Edward Abbey
  20. Adventures with Barefoot CrittersTeagan White
  21. The First 20 Hours – Josh Kaufman
  22. The Girl and the Bicycle – Mark Pett
  23. The Adventures of Beekle – Dan Santat
  24. Sparky! – Jenny Offill, Chris Appelhans
  25. Nature Anatomy – Julia Rothman
  26. A Brave New World – Albus Huxley
  27. Wild – Cheryl Strayed
  28. Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding – Linda Liukas

Here are a few titles I really want to read in 2016:

  1. Arctic Glass – Jill Homer
  2. The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer
  3. The Chocolate War – Robert Cormier
  4. Enchiridion – Epictetus
  5. Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
  6. Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
  7. Lilith’s Brood – Octavia E. Butler
  8. A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawkin
  9. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – Chris Hadfield
  10. Going Somewhere – Brian Benson
  11. The Monkey Wrench Gang – Edward Abbey
  12. Something by the Dalai Lama
  13. The Sculpter by Scott McCloud
  14. The Big Year – Mak Obmascik

Riding Sandy Ridge

I just started riding a Santa Cruz Chameleon hard-tail as my trail bike. Bolted out of work a bit early on a glorious Friday afternoon to enjoy the trail before the rains dampened the weekend.

I recorded bits of my ride using just my iPhone6, a Bluetooth Wireless Remote Control, and a small tripod. Although I had brought the GoPro 3+, I didn’t really use it much on the trail.

The above video was recorded, edited, and posted all from my iPhone 6 as an exercise in video production on the go. I’m pretty happy with the results and learned a few lessons along the way to improve my future videos.

Lesson 1: Recording in slow-mo reduced the resolution of the video. This became evident after uploading to Youtube and seeing the slow-mo compared to the regular videos that are at 1080p. Next time I’ll just record everything in regular video mode and slow it down as needed in post-production.

Lesson 2: The smartphone mount was too bulky for the tripod so it made it very difficult and time consuming to get the shot angle I desired. By the time I was half-way through the ride, I wanted to chuck the mount and just record everythign with the GoPro, but that has its own disadvantages.

Lesson 3: The GoPro can get some great shots but I have to shoot blind to conserve battery. Although I can use the GoPro app on my iPhone to preview where the GoPro camera is pointed, it eats up battery time on both devices that would severly cut down the amount of video time I could record. I really want to look into getting the LCD backpak add-on for my GoPro 3 so that I can more quickly set up shots with confidence and less wasted battery time on the camera and iPhone.

Lesson 4: Need some extra bungee or longer velcro straps for the Joby tripod. I love this tripod for the last 7 or so years, but the strap that is used to secure it to sign posts, trees, or whatever is quite short for my needs. All I need is another 12 inches of velcro so I can secure it to a wider variety of trees and rocks, this would greatly open up the number of angles I could shoot.

Lesson 5: Pre-download some more music. Although the music used in the above video was…OK…it wasn’t great. It just sounded so generic and too heavy for what I wanted to portray. The music that came with iMovie was just all so generic and didn’t work with my project.

Here’s my GPS track of the ride:

I’m so happy with all the work that the Northwest Trail Alliance has done to make the Sandy Ridge Trail such a gem. Please donate or become a member so they can continue their great work.

Coyote Wall and easyClimb

After buying the Surly Pugsley, I was so eager to get out on some singletrack. My two buddies, Brad and Ken, piled into the car one early morning to try our bikes at a route along Coyote Wall. It’s over on the Washington side of the Columbia River near Hood River. A wide-open trail that is always facing the river, lacking of trees until you get near the top, and has some of the most “gnarly” descents I’ve ever faced.

The spirit of mountain biking was reawakened by this day-trip.

16928206257_59eeca6c03_k

More photos on my Flickr Stream.

On our way back from Coyote Wall, we also made a quick stop at a trail in Cascade Locks called “easyCLIMB“. This trail is maintained by the Cascade Locks International Mountain Bikers.

Permanent 2239 – ROCK CREEK – APIARY – TIMBER

After last month’s dismal failure to ride a 200k route, I vowed to ride the Grando a challenging 200k permanent route that would challenge my legs and mental resolve.

This route was it. http://ridewithgps.com/routes/3945068

Owned by the renowened Susan Otcenas, of Small Engine, Big Tank, it will take you over the foothills and rack up some vertical feet while piling on the miles.

I started at 6:30 outside the Cornelious Pass Arco Station on a very chilly and dark Sunday morning with a headwind gusting up to 25mph expected for at least half the route. Within a couple of miles, the sun gave the sky a new amber hue to bring the day.

This was going to be a good day.

Only a couple of miles in and the cold was making hands feel stiff, my layers barely adequate, and my ears sting.

By the time I was merely 5 miles from the start, the sun had started too pop over the horizon and thaw the world around me. Only the shadows remained icy.

Chest ready to burst and warm up, I checked the elevation profile on the Ride with GPS app only to see that I was still less than halfway up the first “Big Hill”. This took a while, but thankfully the cars in this section were few.

After peaking over the range for the first time into a literal white-knuckled descent, an amazing view of the valley, Portland, and Mount Hood in the distance greeted me with blinding but absolutely lovely light.

So far, this is a good day.

Taking care to avoid some small ice patches on Rocky Point Road, I made it down to Highway 30 to head North to the next great uphill challenge on the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway. More climbing. More icy shadows. No jerks.

Another dozen miles or so later, I crossed the foothills for a fourth time and back onto Highway 30 and into St. Helens. Ah, sunshine, flattish roads, and a reprieve from going up.

I come to the realization that I’m nearing the first time cut-off of the route. I reached mile 40 in exactly 4 hours leaving me a scant 12 minutes of padding. So glad I didn’t have any flats so far.

Grabbing some soda to fill one of my bottles, I braced for the final ascent over the hills.

This time I finally shed the last of my “warm” layers to bask in some long-sleeve jersey sunshine. It wasn’t THAT warm, but it kept me quite comfortable.

At Mile 50, a nice long descent towards Vernonia allowed me to make up some time and get ahead of the clock.

“This was a good day.”

At 74 miles, Vernonia was the next control point. Black Bear Cafe was warm and welcoming as usual. A large cinnamon roll topped with frosting a large heap of butter went particularly well with my coffee break.

Timber Road was the next Big Challenge and the incline of the only asshole along the entire 125 miles. Huffing and puffing halfway up the ascent, a rather large red pickup tried to smoke me out with a “Rolling Coal”, but only succeeded in kicking up a racket and a bit of road dust.

Huh.

STILL a good day.

Most of the roads were really quiet and nary a vehicle to pass me by.

I grew increasingly optimistic the ride would be complete before the sun hid itself in the West.

101.5 miles in, there was a tiny blip on the elevation profile. Something I never saw coming when I reviewed the route. Only a half mile long, and 256 feet upwards, it was the ONLY hill I’ve encountered in my miles that had forced me to shift into my easiest possible gearing. This tiny hill sapped the last of the sprint that I had left in my legs.

The final 23.5 miles were a relative dash to get to the finish. I had been texting with Audrey that I would be done just before sundown, but that ETA was constantly being pushed back as my legs were no longer the happy stumps from the start.

As the sky again turned amber-orange, my lights no longer sufficiently powered after being left on all day. I grew anxious to finish as quickly as possible, soreness be damned. No more food stops. No more futzing around. Every car that passed my left was cause to pull-over and wait for the road to clear.

My legs were no longer sore, they were hurting. My breath irregular to hold off the pain.

My phone was barely alive by the end with only 6% battery remaining, but enough to save my recorded ride. Audrey awaiting my arrival at the McDonalds parking lot.

So tired and quickly grown cold, I gorged myself upon 10 chicken nuggets and a chocolate milkshake the likes I had never seen.

My total ride time just shy of 12 hours.

Total spotted wildlife:

    • 1 Red-Tailed Hawk
    • 15 American Robins
    • 200+ empty beer cans
    • 2 White-tailed Deer
    • 10 Crows
    • 1 American Asshole
    • 12 Front-Yard Yappy Dogs
    • Infinite LBB (Little Brown Birds)
    • 10 Goats
    • 2 Cats
    • 2 Miniature Ponies
    • 6 Horses
    • 30+ ducks
    • 17 Geese

This was a good day.

Bike: Soma Grand Randonneur (Grando)
Tires: Compass Hetre 650bx42
GPS: Samsung Galaxy S3 using Ride with GPS app
Miles: 125.2
Total Ride Time: 11:53:58
Calories: Probably not enough
Flat Tires: 0
Mechanical Issues: 0

2014 Christmas Cards

I’m not much of a “Holiday Guy”. But Something about getting back into watercolor painting, all the cards I’ve received this year, and some recent images of Grumpy Cat inspired me to send something special to my family and friends.

no-no-no

 

Inside each card, I took a couple of minutes to draw something different but relevant to the recipient.

Audrey, my partner in said crime, captured the deed in progress:

no-no-no-signingI tried to post this card on my Zazzle shop to make it available for order, but little did I realize that this was a violation of their license policy as I don’t own the rights to Grumpy Cat. I thought it was just a meme!

Overall, I think the card has been well received so I plan on doing something “fun” again for 2015.

Cheers!

 

Birkie 212km Group Permanent

Riding out with Theo, Susan, Chris, John, and Paul, we covered 132 miles or 212km over 12 hours. But 44 miles into the ride, I got a migraine so I had to sit around for an hour waiting for the naproxin, ibuprofen, and two cans of Red Bull to kick in. I eventually got back on the back and slowly made my way back to the group.

Although it was a relatively flat route, I just haven’t spent much time on the bike in general, nor have I done anything longer than 45 miles on the new bike. But the fit on the bike was about as perfect as could be.

Near the final few miles, my legs got crazy and somehow found some sprinting power. I ended up finishing before the group but only by a minute or so.

This was the inaugural ride of my Soma Grand Randonneur bike and it performed WONDERFUL.