Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for January, 2011

School is demanding

Monday, January 17th, 2011

I’ve hardly had any time for riding, aside from riding to/from campus and riding between classes and work, this past week. My first week of classes was not too difficult academically, but the riding was demanding. Cold temperatures, inches of snow, and new routes to learn. It’s been rough.

We had a three-day weekend this weekend, and I hoped to get some good solid mileage in, but I spent basically the whole time working on a mammoth photography assignment. The amount of work seems over the top, especially for a class aimed at non-majors, and I think the professor realizes this, as he gave us a week-long extension. Naturally, this didn’t happen until almost the entire weekend was gone. I got to ride a few miles today (six, to be precise). It’s been frustrating not having time for riding, but I hope that this is a temporary setback, and that future assignments will be less demanding. I’ve actually been having fun with the project — I love taking photos — but the time commitment has been way more than I anticipated.

The good news is, my brain is being used in ways it hasn’t in many years. I’m learning so much. There’s only one class I’m not excited about, and that is my Computer Science class. Part of the reason is that it’s very basic material, frankly below my current skill level. But there is enough flexibility with the projects that I can branch out into new areas. Furthermore, I’ve been feeling less interested in programming in general, and as time goes on, I feel more strongly about this point. Currently the best approach seems to be to supplement my technical work with more creative elements, to make things more interesting. I’m curious to see where this takes me.

I don’t feel bad that I have not had time for riding, except that I am supposed to be training for a 200 km brevet right now. But, riding has dominated my time the past few years and I need to balance that with some personal development in other areas.

Keen Newport Trail – Initial Impressions

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

I’ve been meaning to write a few impressions of my new Keen shoes that some of you have noticed in my photos.

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The model is Keen Newport Trail. The color claims to be black, but they really look like more of a dark green.They’re also available in brown.

The design seems to be based on the Keen Newport sandal, but adds an insulated, waterproof/breathable layer. I was looking for something that fit better than my old hiking boots. It had to be waterproof, hopefully something a little more breathable, and a bit lighter.  I wanted to use them for winter cycling, and hiking year-round.These met all my criteria, except that they aren’t very light. Then again I think “warm” and “light” may be contradictory.

I tried on a number of different shoes, and these were by far the most comfortable, for me. Then again, needing a size 13, my options were rather limited.

I wanted to make sure to get plenty of breathing/wiggle room, even with thick socks, so I could wear them in very cold weather. One thing that’s great about these is, because of their design, they can comfortably accommodate a wider range of sock thickness than a traditional shoe or boot design.

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These fit differently from any other shoe I’ve tried. I tried them on and it felt like they conformed to my feet. The insole supposedly will contour to my feet, over time.

So, how do they perform? So far, they’re great. I’ve worn them with a wide range of different socks, and they don’t feel too lose with thin socks, I just have to tighten the laces more. I’ve worn them for commuting, road biking, and snowbiking, with great results. I was a little worried about the rather subdued tread pattern for hiking, but the rubber is so sticky that not much tread is really needed. They worked well on wet, mossy rocks. I still had to be careful, but I was pleasantly surprised with how good my traction was. If you go to Keen’s site, you can see the shoe from different angles, including the tread pattern.

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These shoes have Keen.Dry, which is Keen’s answer to Gore-Tex. Some reviews I read said that Keen.Dry breathes better than Gore-Tex. In my experience, these do breathe better than my old Gore-Tex hiking boots. But, the designs are so different that it’s hard to say whether the waterproof/breathable layers are really that different.

I haven’t done any really long rides in these yet (4 hours or more), but they’ve worked well on everything I’ve thrown at them so far, up to about three hours in cold conditions. I’ve read many times that in order to keep your feet warm in winter, you need adequate room in your shoe. I have more room in these than I did with my old boots, and the difference is significant. I highly recommend making sure you have adequate breathing room in your shoes, if you are having trouble keeping your feet warm. I tie my laces loosely on long cold rides in these, and that works very well.

The only problem I’ve noticed with these, aside from weight, is that the insole has stained some of my light-colored socks. I don’t really mind, so this is not a problem for me.

I’ll post more thoughts once I’ve had these for a while. So far, I like them very much, and I imagine they will continue to perform well.

Day two of school

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Today I had classes, but no work. Mother nature is testing me this first week of classes. We got a couple of inches of snow overnight, and it continued to snow throughout the day. It was a wet, sticky snow that got all over everything. Local public schools were canceled, but IU almost never cancels classes.

My ride to work was not too bad. When public schools are canceled, there’s never much traffic. Some roads were sketchy.

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This road hadn’t received any attention at all.

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For a while, I followed this intrepid rider. She did not appear to have studded tires, but she was doing just fine. I was impressed.

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Here’s a nice view from inside the Radio/TV building.

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The Sample Gates are an icon on campus. I passed through them between classes.

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There are many beautiful, old buildings on campus … many of which are made of local limestone.

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There’s a wooded area right amongst some of the buildings. It’s small, but you can lose yourself and feel you’re out in the woods.

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I stumbled upon this beautiful sculpture. Not sure what the story is behind this. A quick googling doesn’t turn anything up.

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Here’s the bike after my last class.

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My ride home from campus was sketchy. My rear brake wasn’t working too well … too much snow clung to it, and froze up.

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I did, however, manage to find a random nature preserve, and a shortcut.

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Here I am, almost home. You can see how the snow clings to everything.

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Seriously, everything.

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I planned to do a good training ride tonight, but the roads just got worse and worse. I decided to stay home tonight. A good choice, I think.

Classes are going well so far. I feel least interested in my Computer Science course, which is interesting as IT has been my chosen profession for the last several years. Maybe this is a chance to change course?

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