Oct 102010
 

I’ve been craving potatoes lately for some reason – maybe because I’ve been sick and salty starches are more appealing than anything else.

German Potato Salad

Nobody does potato salad like Gustav’s, but I thought I’d try. I sliced 2 russets into 1/4″ slices and boiled them until tender. I sauteed half a red onion in butter then added 1.5 T of olive oil, 1 T of good dijon mustard, 2 T of vinegar, mixed in the potatoes and added some salt and pepper. The flavor was about right, but could have used some more mustard. The potatoes were a bit overdone, I think baking would be a better option.

Steak Fries

After perusing “The Joy of Cooking”, I decided to try using my remaining russet to make a small batch of steak fries. I sliced it into 3/8″ slices, soaked it in cold water for 10 minutes, dried them, tossed with 1 T of olive oil, and baked on a cookie sheet for 40 minutes @ 450F. I sprinkled them with a pinch of salt and some paprika. Devon gobbled up half of them, I split the rest with Mary Lou and Abi. The only thing I’ll change next time is quantity – 4 potatoes, not 1.

Roasted Mixed Potatoes

Devon picked up some yellow and red potatoes from our trip to the pumpkin patch on Friday. We diced two of each, and soaked them like we did the fries. While they soaked, we sauteed a small yellow onion with a diced smoked sausage from the farmer’s market and then added them to the drained and dried potatoes to an 8×8 baking dish with some olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper. I nuked the dish for 3 minutes to preheat the potatoes and try to reduce the baking time (in retrospect I should have nuked the potatoes prior to adding the onions and sausage). Finally, I added a couple T of butter (it was looking dry) and baked for 40 minutes at 450. The results were good, albeit a little plain – which suited this sick wannabe-chef just fine. I tried them with some malt vinegar (maybe a little too strong), Mary Lou tried some ketchup (which turned them into home fries), but all on their own they made for a decent side dish (or main course if you’re down with a nasty cold).

Apr 262010
 

Made my second commute in on my Jamis Commuter 3 today, this time in the rain! Some lessons learned:

  • Clear glasses are a must for riding in the rain.
  • Changing routes spontaneously is more fun in a car.
  • Hills still suck.
Apr 202010
 

It’s finally done. We found a 2007 Honda Odyssey in a color we like with the features we wanted (EX-L, leather, DVD), with the miles mlhart was happy with (< 36k). The exterior had some scratches where the bumpers bumped (they are awfully low) and the carpet has the tel-tale signs of children with muddy feet and cherry Popsicles having enjoyed a ride or a thousand. Being willing to accept these blemishes saved us $11k over a new one. We plan to drive it for a month or so and then take it to have some body work done and then on over for a thorough detailing. The sellers were reasonable and pretty straight with us - which is a lot more than I can say of my previous experiences. Buying used from a private party was the way to go for us.

Apr 202010
 

I picked up my shiny new Jamis Commuter 3 on Thursday. I opted for the 21″ over the 19″ even though it doesn’t offer as much stand-over clearance as I’d like. I had to raise the seat above the height of the handlebars on the 19″ which wasn’t the ride I was looking for. I also found my toe would clip the front fender on tight turns which bothered me (perhaps more than it should have). All in all, the 21″ just felt more comfortable. So after getting it and the various safety and security accessories home, I took a few getting-to-know-you rides around the neighborhood and today (just 30 minutes ago) made my first commute by bike into work. I picked a route that avoided the busier roads without bike lanes as well as dodging around some of the steeper inclines. It took me through our park on a path around the lake before dumping me out on Walker Rd for the last stretch. Nike threw a nice hill at me toward the end, but IBM let me coast the last quarter mile on a generous incline to the parking lot. I am very glad for the 8-speed Shimano Nexus hub, a single-speed would likely have been an excuse not to ride. 15 minutes elapsed time door to door, it might take me a little longer to work the burn out of my legs and to get rid of “that funny feeling in my tummy”. All in all, I think it’s a great start. Thanks to everyone that offered advice and encouraged me to start riding in!

Apr 132010
 

We’re spiraling down the minivan funnel. We’ve started test driving new and used models, trying to get a grip on what we want, what’s practical, and what we can afford. We found ourselves at Bob Lanphere’s Beaverton Honda test driving a new and a used Honda Odyssey. We liked the van (as much as one can like a van). We hadn’t decided on whether to sell privately or do a trade in. The salesman, we’ll call this one Jay, started to talk numbers, and I wasn’t quite prepared for that. I knew I wanted at least $7k for my car if I was to trade it in, knowing I could get $8k for it privately. The kids started screaming, he started talking fast, he wrote some 3rd generation figures on a card as we walked out the door.

That night we renewed our Consumer Reports subscription and got their new car price report ($15, do it!). It listed the dealer invoice price as well as the dealer incentives and hold-backs that make it look like the dealer is making less money than they really are. This process also notified Consumer Reports Zag program partner dealers of our interest, and they replied with quotes as well. One of those dealers was, again, Beaverton Honda. This quote was a full $3,000 less than the one our salesman scribbled on the card, and was really a very good price, earning the dealer a good $1,400 on the sale. I was happy with the internet price.

Our showroom salesman, Jay, called the next day and asked when we were coming to “pick up our van”. I let him know that I received a lower quote from their internet department. He said it was a mistake and that they would be “losing money” (that was the first of many more occurrences of that outright lie – albeit backed by very official looking invoice paperwork). The internet sales person, we’ll call this one Mary, called later and I let her know I wasn’t sure how to proceed with their two departments now laying claim to me, and that I was upset at being lied to by the showroom people – still believing they were somehow separate. I played phone tag with Mary for a couple days, bouncing partial quotes back and forth over email, until she finally caught me at work today (which is odd since they day before she said she would be going on vacation for three days and I should close on the deal then so as to not lose my chance to get that particular van…)

Mary started off politely, trying to explain the discrepancy in price as being due to my wanting $7k for my car – which Jay had agreed to. Of course Jay agreed to this by padding the living crap out of the price for the vehicle. I told Mary that I would rather sell my car privately and wait a few weeks to buy the van rather than lose the $3k by trading it in to them for the $5k she offered. This is where the conversation got weird, and I can’t hope to capture it here. Mary first started trying to convince me my car wasn’t worth what the KBB says it’s worth. When that didn’t work, she suggested I buy the van now and refinance the loan after I sell my car. When I told her a refinance wasn’t free, she cut me off and said “What is free in this world?” I should have hung-up right there, but I have this delusional sense of obligation to make the other person understand, and see reason. (Yes, I know, she understood perfectly well.) I had mentioned that we planned to use the 2.9% Honda financing, to which she replied “You can have this price or the financing, but not both.” I replied with “So for this price that you quoted me, you won’t give me the Honda Customer Incentive 2.9% financing?”. “If I do, will you buy the car today?” What? That doesn’t even make sense. She proceeded to try the “There are only 3 left, and there won’t be any more.” line, then the “You work for a living, we have to make money too.” line – which I don’t understand as I wasn’t asking them to lower the price, then the “You’ve spent a lot of Jay’s time and my time.” line, and finally my personal favorite “Can you just be frank with me and give me the number you have in mind?”. Frank? Really? _You_ want _me_ to be frank with you… “What can we do to get your business?” “We aren’t going to do anything Mary, we’re done.” “Well I’m done with you sir!”. Click.

The sad thing is, I was ready to wait a couple weeks, get my car sold, and go hand them a wad of cash and finance the rest. Maybe I’d have to wait a couple weeks for them to find one of the two colors we found acceptable, but I was ready to do it. Their dealership is close, the service department is close, our friends had a good experience there. But instead, Mary decided to try and bully me into making a rash decision to purchase a thirty-thousand-dollar vehicle. So not only did she not make a sale today, she lost the sale she would have had in a couple weeks time. I’m also doing my very best to warn potential buyers of this dealership’s complete disregard for ethical salesmanship. They’ve lost more than one sale this day.

It’s different at Beaverton Honda alright. The names and possibly the gender of the salespeople mentioned in this post have been changed to mock the guilty.

Apr 112010
 

Yesterday I left the burbs and trekked into SE to see Corey at Seven Corners Cycles about a Jamis Commuter 3. Corey listened to what I was looking to do, and what attracted me to the Jamis Commuter 3. He addressed my concerns about traditional v-brakes, pointing out how the machined aluminum rims with water channels today provide much more friction for the brake pad than the steel wheels of the last era. (So he didn’t steer me to the >$1000 Jamis Commuter 4).

He setup the 21″ he had on hand, warning me it might be a little tall for my 5’11” frame. The seat-to-bars length looked good, but it was a little… dangerous… to casually throw a leg over such a high bar. The bike has slightly curved bars, a slightly reclined seat and head tube, a comfortable saddle, and 32c tires. All this combined for the best ride I’ve had this week. It also comes stock with fenders, a rear rack, and a lighting system driven by a Shimano Dynamo front hub (cool tech if you ask me). With all these things included, the Jamis comes in well under most of the competition. After the ride, we agreed that I’d probably be better off with a 19″ frame and possibly a longer stem. He said he should have one in and built around this coming Thursday. I committed to buying one of the two after a final fitting.

Seven Corners Cycles had me at the door though. With two black labs roaming the store floor, you can’t go wrong. It didn’t hurt that they let dvh3 drive a little red Jamis around and around (and around and around) the store, and Corey played “te pego con palo” with him while I test rode my future commuter.

Thanks to The 6-Miller for the excellent write-up on 2008 commuter bicycles which eventually led me to the Jamis Commuter series.

Apr 082010
 

Today I went out in search of a Swobo dealer to test drive the Swobo Otis, Novak, and Dixon. I found one local Swobo dealer, and they only carried one of the three bikes I was hoping to test drive: the Swobo Novak. A Swobo Rep happened to be on-site today – which turned out to be rather frustrating as I was just handed over for indoctrination rather than the slightly less biased pitches of the shop sales people. But, on to the reviews. Let me preface by saying I was annoyed with the rep and was still a little saddle sore from my time on the Sohos, so my reviews are sure to be slightly less positive than yesterday’s.

The Novak is a pretty basic machine: steel frame, caliper brakes, and an SRAM iMotion 3 speed internal geared hub with a grib shifter. The Novak rode much like the Trek Soho S, although it felt a little taller and maybe not quite as nimble. I really liked the grip shifter. With just a soft rubber extension of the grip to rotate, there are no thumb buttons to confuse which is higher and lower. I just gripped the shifter and rotated forward or back. With just 3 gears, you don’t spend any time fussing over which granny gear to use on the hill, just drop into “lo” and go. In that sense it’s a lot like the single speed Soho S where you free your mind from the mechanics of shifting and enjoy the ride. The iMotion hub was noisier than the Shimano Nexus on the Soho. As for the ride, it fel pretty stiff to me. The 700x28c tires might have something to do with that. I have to confess that, while this really should _not_ matter, it isn’t much to look at, and compared to the Soho S, it’s down right dull. All in all, a very practical, no-nonsense commuter.

Since I was there, I also took a ride on the Swobo Baxter, even though it wasn’t previously on my list to ride. The Baxter is $400 jump over the Novak. It boasts front and rear disc brakes and an 8 speed Shimano Alfine internal geared hub. It has a nicely sculpted aluminum frame and matching carbon fiber fork. This bike looks racy, but the Hoopty handlebar has a very school-girl look to it, and I confess to being a little self-conscious holding on to it, but was amazed and what a relaxed ride the more upright position provided. Between the carbon fiber fork and the slightly wider tires, the Baxter was a smoother ride than either the Novak or the Trek Soho S. Since Swobo elected to use the Shimano Alfine internal geared hub instead of the SRAM, the shifter is two button rapidfire job like the Trek Soho – which I really don’t care for. I found myself having to really focus to find the levers and to press the right one. I prefer the simplicity of the 3 speed and the grip shifters. A nice ride, but for the money I think I can find a better match.

I would still really like to ride an Otis and a Dixon… but I might be out of luck there as I have no local dealers.

Apr 072010
 

So I’m in the process of becoming one of those nuts who ride their bikes to work and use their wife’s car to pick up bags of concrete from the home store. I’ve read up a bit and have decided a “fitness-hybrid” or a “commuter-hybrid” is the best fit for me. I’ll share my cycle selection experience here. I use “cycle” because “bicycle” makes me sound old, and “bike” screams junior high to me… stupid? I know.

I took a trip to see the guys at the Beaverton Bike Gallery today to test drive a Trek Soho and a Trek Soho S. They had both in my size (20″ for my 5’11” frame seems about right) and they are really impressive machines. The Soho boasts roller brakes (sorta disk like), an 8 speed Shimano Nexus internal geared hub, and a carbon drive belt… and a price tag to match. The belt drive is noticeable, neither bad nor good, just different. The Soho S in turn has traditional brakes and a single speed chain drive. They both were very tight and nimble, but the Soho S’s minimalism made a noticeable difference in weight (both bikes are light, but riding the S I had to look down to make sure it was still there!). It’s true what they say about gears, you never realize how much your mind focuses on them until they aren’t there. The S was a truly liberating ride. I am concerned that a single-speed will be a hindrance on the grade from work to home. The nearly $500 up-charge for the Soho over the S probably plants it squarely out of my range, and while the fancy brakes and belt drive are cool – I’m not ready to be an early adopter in a field I am brand new to. I preferred the 700x32c tires on the Soho over the 700x28c on the Soho S. I found the saddle on each of them to be absolutely _horrible_ , but that was the only real negative, and maybe my arse just needs to get in gear… as it were.

Next on the list of test-drives are the Swobo Otis, Novak, and Dixon.

Feb 012010
 

I stood in line at the rec center at 5:25am for pre-school registration, behind 5 people who had done their research and knew which class they wanted, and 1 woman who spent 20 minutes at the desk asking questions while the phone rang off the hook and more people lined up…. only to sign her kid up for 2 classes because she just couldn’t decide…. then spent a few minutes trying to see if she could get her $50 back if she called back with a final decision later today…. wow… seriously?… sigh. dvh3 did get 1 of the 2 remaining spots in the class we wanted.

Aug 042009
 

I came home today to a “We Love Daddy” sign on my front door. Devon decided I needed a surprise party – or rather that he needed to throw one for me. It was really wonderful. This evening was the best 4 hours we’ve spent together as a family in months. There was no whining, no frustrated sighs, it was great. Thanks Mommy and Devon! Abigail was present, but mostly unaffected by the whole thing – but we had some quality snuggles anyway :-)