An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Following my daughter's example

I had posted a little while ago regarding my younger daughter’s Tae Kwon Do class, and the emphasis on discipline. I respect the instructors and dojang (literal translation from Korean: “house of discipline”), how they have treated the children and drawn out the behaviors from them with a gentle hand.

So it was inevitable, I guess, that I would join my daughter when she moved up to the “6 and over” white belt class. And I was pretty excited about it.

Last night was that first class.

I wasn’t really nervous. I had been told that the class would be in a review mode leading up to this weekend’s belt upgrade testing, so I’d be a little lost. Kind of like trying to take a sip from a fire hose. But it turned out to not be all that bad. Having watched Abbie’s classes and done some practice with her at home, I wasn’t completely clueless (only partly clueless).

Standing out in a class of
short people.
Sitting cross-legged on the edge of the mat before class, lined up with all the other students, was almost comical. Most heads were at my shoulder level. I was definitely the only one there with grey hair. When we lined up for the beginning of class, I had to move a couple of the kids forward as they outranked me (they ALL did, since I had no rank starting out).

Within a few minutes of the start, into the warm-ups, I was sweating. And it appeared I was the only one sweating. Yeah. Thanks to being conditioned to cool myself, along with a 20mph wind to help the process (absent in the building), I was blotting my head often, trying to prevent a pool from forming on the mat. Stretching? Yep, 55 year-old man does not do ANYTHING close to splits. Something to work on.

I made it through the kicking drills fine. Then we did some practice on blocking – a center sweeping block I hadn’t seen done in Abbie’s previous class. There’s a reason my chosen sports involve a lot of repetition in anything that needs a modicum of coordination. Going slow I could get it. Once the pace quickened, my coordination failed me. But persistence pays off. Or eventually it will.

Anyway, from there we did a short game. The kid I was paired with had treated the kicking drills like he was trying to send the paddles flying out of the instructor’s hands. I knew that this guy would kick my behind… Turned out it was a few rounds of rock-paper-scissors, with the loser doing 3 push-ups each round. Whew!

The class ended with the new students breaking a board to earn their white belt. I saw the three boards with the belts sitting on the mat in front of the class, and noticed that one of them was significantly thicker than the others… I was second of the three to show my anger to the wood, and sure enough, that thicker board was mine. The “18+ board”, I was told.

I think Abbie was more excited
about me breaking a board
than I was.

I took my stance, and unleashed my kick. The board still broke easily. Thank the in-grain pine!

I was wrapped with my white belt (and double wrapped – that belt was WAY long), received my broken board, and thanked my instructor (kahm sah hamnida). The last new student broke her board (with some encouragement from the rest of the class), we paid our respects to the flags, the instructor (sah bum nim), and senior students (sun bae nim), and then were dismissed.

Going to sleep was a bit of a challenge – I was a bit keyed up still.

Now being “the morning after”, I find that I’m not really sore, but I am tired. And I’m looking forward to the next class on Thursday.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Free to fly

All those who see me
And all who believe in me
Share in the freedom
I feel when I fly.
-          John Denver, The Eagle and The Hawk

My weekday lunchtime rides are mostly on a network of gravel service roads around the local company site, travelling around and through many, many acres of variable-age woods. Wildlife is prevalent. It’s a rare day that I don’t see at least one deer, and I get to see the new fawns grow up from wobbly spotted waifs to bold adults. Rabbits and squirrels are populous as well. I’ve also seen raccoon, coyote, and the occasional owl.

But yesterday I had a rare close encounter with, if I believed in such things, one of my spirit animals.

I have a sense of wonder about raptors, eagles and hawks in particular. I don’t know really why, but it’s always been there. Maybe it’s the sheer size (though recently I saw wild turkeys for the first time, and didn’t get that same sense). Or the hunting aspect.

When I worked in Southeast Alaska, bald eagles were often sighted. There was an area near the camp where a stream wound its way through an old-growth forest of firs, the ground moss covered. Eagles would congregate in this area, and we could walk through it without disturbing them. Standing at the foot of a massive tree with an eagle perched just twenty feet overhead is quite the experience.

So back to yesterday… I was doing my normal lunchtime ride, on the second lap of four, in a paved section between the trails. I had just crested the hill and turned to the left. I saw a hawk on an overhead branch about fifteen feet up. As I passed under, it unfolded its wings. I figured it would just fly into the woods.

The angle of the sun after the turn was directly at my back, and I could see the shadow of the hawk as it dropped off the branch, right in line with me. It swooped down over my head and went straight in front of me, gliding through two slow and shallow arcs, one right, then one left, never more than ten feet in front of me. It then gave one gentle push with the wings, accelerated and glided up to another overhead branch, just ahead.

As I passed under it, the wings unfolded, and down it swooped again, this time closer, coming within three feet of the ground in front of me. Then it arced up to eye level, moved left and watched me as we matched speed. For some time we just moved along together, a few feet apart, watching each other.

When the path turned again, the hawk turned left and into the trees, my way going right and into another gated service road.

I felt awed to have shared that time with such an animal. And thankful to the regal bird for allowing me to tag along and lend me some of that freedom.

Friday, May 24, 2019

A form of discipline

My daughter began Tae Kwon Do classes at a local dojang (place where one trains for TKD, aka "house of discipline"), Pinnacle Martial Arts, about 6 weeks ago. When we went in to get her started, the instructor asked us what we were looking to gain from the lessons.

My younger daughter is what most would consider “high energy”. At five years old (“five and a half!”), that’s not an abnormal thing. My older daughter (graduating from high school next month), by comparison, left me completely unprepared for this young lady. High energy, plus the constant seeking of attention… We say that her favorite toy is “people”. And it doesn’t really matter how familiar she is with the people involved. She was old enough, and actually had the preschool results last fall, to enter kindergarten, but we chose to give it another year for her to develop a little more emotional maturity.

Page 2, the test scores
Page 1, what you'd
expect on a form
So anyway, our answer to the instructor was that we were looking for her to develop some better focus and discipline, be more “teachable”, given that she would be entering kindergarten this fall.

The results, just a few weeks in, have been amazing. Sonsaeng-nim (“instructor” in Korean) Hubbard’s class with the young children is eye-opening. He teaches respect – for the class, for parents, for fellow students, for the dojang -- how to act properly, but in a gentle manner that draws out the best in them. Watching my young daughter flourish in this environment has been such a great joy. And I’ve really enjoyed practicing with her at home – don’t worry, I’ve already talked with her about how she will quickly progress beyond my ability to help her.

Already she is looking forward to taking her first test for her yellow-stripe belt next month.

There’s a four-page form that goes along with this test. And I find this form to be a refreshing surprise.

Page 3, the parents
have their say
The first page is what one would expect – the typical name/address/phone number information.
The second page is the evaluation from the test itself.

The next two pages are what got my attention, and my respect. Page three is an evaluation from parents on various aspects of home life, each point answered on a 5-point scale. Things like “abides by parents decisions”, and “helps with chores without being asked”. And page four is a similar evaluation from school teachers, how they are doing in their classes.

I like the fact that aspects of the student’s life outside the dojang are considered for the belt evaluation. I’ve told my daughter that this supports an idea that I’ve tried to live up to (with varying levels of success and failure) ever since I read an article around 1990:

How you do anything is how you do everything.
Page 4, School evaluation!

It speaks to how one lives their life, with a unifying discipline that says there is nothing that doesn’t matter. There is nothing that doesn’t count. EVERYTHING counts in your life, and they should all be approached with the same focus, the same set of ethics. Compromising in one aspect affects the others.

We’ve already seen a difference at home with her discipline. We’re hoping it continues to spread. Results that will reap rewards for generations.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

I can’t get no…. Satisfaction

When I'm ridin' round the world
And I'm doin' this and I'm signin' that
 -- Mick Jagger

They say that beauty is only skin deep (whoever “they” is). And when it comes to framebuilding, the skin is truly what strikes the customer first. No matter how good the workmanship, how tight the miters are, how smooth the joints, if the skin (the finish) is ugly, it doesn’t resonate with the customer.

I have chosen to have my standard offered frame finish for Mjolnir Cycles to be a one-color powder coat, which is included in the base price for my work. It’s durable, not too costly (more on this later), and complements a fillet brazed joint well. While a wet paint application can offer a lot of options for multiple colors, it’s expensive.

Over the last five years I’ve had one local powder coat company do all my customer work*, outside of the few customers who wanted a specific multi-color scheme (and paid the difference for the more expensive finish). The first job I had them do was the frame I made for my wife. It came out nice, but it took three times as long as they originally said, and the end cost was more than the verbal quote they gave me before I handed over the frame to be coated. But the price was right for this job.

Since that first job with them, their price has nearly tripled, with the continued trend of final cost being higher than the verbal quote. Yeah, yeah, get it in writing before hand. But should I really have to?

This led me, on my most recent build, to seek out another powder coating operation.

Their over-the-phone quote was half of the first coater, and they came recommended by loads of reviews, so I decided to give them a try.

As with most powder coaters that operate on any large scale, they were located in an industrial warehouse mall-type complex. When talking with them, I shared why I had sought them out, and they agreed that my previous vendor was known for some shady dealings. I selected the color from the wall of samples, left the frame and a copy of my reseller permit (so that I don’t pay them the sales tax – I collect that at the time of my sale), with the agreement that they would have the frame ready within 10 business days.

I got a call four days later saying it was ready. Okay, nice. That was on a Friday, and I couldn’t pick up the frame until the following Monday.

So I picked the frame up, gave it a cursory look – it’s powder coat, after all, it should be uniform and smooth. Paid the man, put it in my car and drove home.

Bringing the frame into my shop, I took a closer look at it in the full light of day. I noticed a wavy area on one joint, apparent with the brighter light and high gloss of the finish. Then I saw a gap in another area. Then some pits. Then some thin spots. Then some more waves…

So instead of being a week ahead, I’ll need to do some sanding and touch-ups, which will likely be another week behind. The saving grace on this is that I was going to be adding a fade color to the powder coat base anyway, and these areas fell at least close to the addition, so I can include them and not really affect the end product. But still…

With these frustrations, and the issues I’ve had with rattle cans on my own frames, I had started to explore adding frame finishing to my quiver of skills. I looked at air brushes and the requirements surrounding building a finish booth for wet paint application at home. The guns themselves were quite reasonable – just a low few hundred dollars. But the paints, ventilation systems, fume reclamation, air filters, clean-room needs, curing oven… It all added up to several THOUSAND dollars before I even shot my first job. And I would have essentially had to build another shed on my property, which would have meant a building permit – a long process by itself, and I have a visceral aversion to government oversight of what I can and can’t do on my own property like that.

So I turned my eye towards what it would take to do my own powder coating. The cost of the paint (powder) applicators is actually lower than for the wet paint guns, with fewer headaches and clean up. The cost of the powder is lower than wet paint. There are no environmental impacts – no harmful fumes or chemicals, and clean up entails sweeping up any errant material off the floor. That clean up can be minimized by a low-draft filter system utilizing things like a PVC and cardboard, duct tape, a regular furnace filter, and a shop vac. But the big cost of the powder coating operation is the oven.

No getting around it, in order to do powder coating, you need an over than can reach and maintain 400F. That’s what activates the powder to become a uniform plastic coating (not really plastic, but you get the idea). And your regular old kitchen oven is a little on the small side for fitting a bike frame.

Purchasing an oven of the appropriate size would run several (and several more) thousand dollars. But… I can make my own, to exactly the size I need, using a scuttled double convection oven with the controls, and metal sheet and studs with rock wool insulation. A G and a half, at the outside. Hey, I saw it on Youtube, so how hard can it be?

Please don’t think I’m really taking a cavalier an attitude towards this project as the last sentence implies. It’s a big undertaking. But it will pay for itself in short time. And might even grow into its own revenue stream outside frame building.

Maybe I can get some satisfaction.

*For my personal frames I’ve done regular old Rustoleum rattle can paint jobs. With some care and a lot of work and a lot of coats, they’ve come out looking decent, but not very durable. But I’ve grown very frustrated with the can tips clogging and losing pressure over time.