22 February 2009

every car a murder, every bicycle a love affair


well, i bit the bullet. after going carless nearly into my 30th year, the death of cc’s jeep on our recent beach trip made it clear to me that i enjoy being able to travel outside the city at a moment’s notice, and as a minted man of means i should step up to the plate to enable that rather than just mooching off others.

i’ve always had a bit of a love affair with cars. presumably i got it from my father, a consummate dickerer and deal-hunter; he would routinely spend his sunday afternoons poring over the thrifty nickel and the columbian classifieds with a literal magnifying glass looking for his next automotive adventure. he went through a variety of cars: a beater pinto, a bronco, a corvette stingray, and even a big dump truck repainted with leftover house paint. eventually the state caught up with him and demanded he register as a car dealer. instead, he switched his focus to classic ford tractors, painstakingly rebuilding them into fine showpieces.

in college i ended up working for the now-defunct autoadvisor, riding my bike there every day while my coworkers sold people on the american dream. the owner and his wife were both auto writers, and a system exists by which auto writers can have a new car to test drive every week. a steady stream of vehicles came through, each one getting a thorough testing (sometimes with unawares employees riding shotgun) and the office was filled with a steady buzz of car information and – other than myself and evilmike – car aficionados. i was always happy to talk shop with people, though i’d not had a license (and did not get one until 2005), i was excited to research new (or used) purchases and ponder what sort of car i’d end up with.

it turns out the answer isn’t that surprising: a car that i can use for the things i think a car is good at. i’m not going to be driving to the supermarket or around greenlake or to work. i’m not even going to be driving downtown and circling the block looking for parking. my bicycle is always better for those situations. but when it comes to weekend adventures it’s tough to beat a car – unless you want to spend most of your weekend (or more) just going out and back the car is the key that fits the lock of the american transportation system.

but to the gritty details: i got a 1999 subaru outback. it’s got 95,000 miles on it, and the previous owner was a little old lady that took it back to the same dealership she bought it at to change the oil every 3000 miles. when i was evaluating it the dealership gave me a printout the car’s lifetime service record – and it’s clear that this woman was thorough. she brought it to be serviced at the dealer when she spilled soda on the passenger seat. at $9500 after sales tax and licensing it’s the most expensive single item i own, and the most money i’ve spent in one day since i graduated college. my goal is to put about seven or eight thousand miles on it a year, and it’ll mostly live at cc’s house since i still dislike driving. i’m thinking of putting a little chauffeur’s hat in the glove compartment.

12 February 2009

so keep your ergonomic chair i don’t care what my seating is

i’m now three days into my new job and it’s going well, but by yesterday i had noticed that my new desk-chair-computer arrangement was causing me discomfort. i had my previous office setup for over six years, but never did it occur to me that it was particularly ergonomic or suited to my body – it was just my desk and i sat in it however i wanted. the desk was little more than a piece of plywood on some 2×4′s with a raised stand for two flickering, ancient crt monitors and and old green chair that rapidly losing the upholstery from one corner. at the new fancy office with a crystal-clear lcd, adjustable chair and a nice new desk, i was frankly surprised to discover that my wrist and back were hurting. i did a little bit of the chair-adjust, keyboard move, monitor rotate shuffle (presumably much to the dismay of my officemate) but nothing seemed to alleviate it.

similarly, this evening i got around to measuring my bicycles. i’d had some conversations with alex about my swift folder and adjusting it to match the cockpit of my long haul trucker – a bike i knew fit me well for all types of riding. i set out with the measuring tape and lo and behold i was surprised to find that even though the swift folder is a 20″ wheeled aluminum fixed gear with bmx bars, it has the same bottom bracket-to-handlebar, bottom bracket-to-saddle, and saddle-to-handlebar measurements as the long haul trucker – down to a couple millimeters. the same held true for my trek. the pugsley was the outlier, primarily because it rocks (runs? rubs?) a lower saddle. across the board, without ever really consciously measuring out any of these bikes, i’d arrived at a very narrow range of comfortable lengths.

so, logically, i now feel an impetus to revisit my old workplace with a measuring tape and sort out the relevant distances that made me able to work there for many years without discomfort. and maybe i’ll take that old green chair, because for all it’s lack of adjustability, it sure never hurt my back.

26 January 2009

you know when i’m wearin’ my socks it’s business time, they’re business socks

so as most of you who follow my twitter feed or have friended me on facebook are aware, after seven and a half years of working for the UW at the BRTC and probably six years of talking about getting a new job i’ve finally moved onto greener pastures.

quick facts:

  • the new company is datstat, in fremont.
  • they (we!) build data collection software and research management systems for universities and businesses.
  • i’m excited to be done with classic asp and vbscript, but not particularly excited about asp.net. we’ll see.
  • my first real day will be 2/9, but i’ve already picked up my laptop and started checking my email account obsessively.
  • i did get a pretty significant pay rise, but that’s the nature of leaving the university.

i definitely feel like the university has been a good place for me, and i am sad to be leaving it. either as a student or an employee i’ve been there continuously since 1997, and it has been in almost every way the center of my seattle experience. fortunately, datstat is in a good location and has a number of former university employees so i’m hoping to feel right at home.

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