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March 28, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

Life’s Little Coincidences – latest edition

Incident #1 (bites):

At a talk by the authors at the Shamrock Marathon , I found out about a wonderful cookbook that’s been out for a year: Run Fast, Eat Slow. The cookbook features recipes that are not only healthy and seem easy to make, but sound delicious.  I was especially intrigued by some of the breakfast recipes, in particular, the teff pancakes. I’ve eaten teff, in the form of injera, but teff flour was definitely not in my pantry.

Incident #2 (bytes):

The New Yorker’s online journal just published a wonderful article about the integration of foreign foodstuffs into our everyday eating habits: The Sriracha Argument for Immigration. The writer’s examples of the good influence of “foreign” foods, introduced by immigrants, on both Canadian and American cuisine and restaurants are fairly convincing.  The article refers to current events, leading with a new Syrian bakery in Toronto. But it also brings up the waves of immigration that introduced us to those great “American” foods — pastrami sandwiches and  hamburgers.

Incident #3 (bikes):

Today I had to bring my bike into the local bike shop for a minor repair that I was too lazy to do myself.  During the 30 minutes it would take, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood, rather than just heading for the Starbucks one block away.


During my 30-minute bike repair, I wandered into a small grocery I’d never been in before. There was some foreign script I didn’t recognize on a sign in the window. Lo and behold, it was an Ethiopian grocery that had small packets of teff flour for sale. I bought some. Now I have to check the recipe book and see if I have the other ingredients. Teff pancakes are on the menu!


March 23, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

Errandonée Challenge – 2017

Every spring, for the past several years,  the Errandonée Challenge takes place. Basically, this is a contest where people fulfill miscellaneous errands either by riding their bikes or running (ok, technically speaking that’s an “errundonée”.  Frankly, it’s not much of a challenge for me, because I usually do all of my errands within a 15-mile radius by bicycling.  Since last year, as part of my triathlon/running training, I’ve started trying to do errands within a 2-mile radius by running, provided the errand doesn’t require carrying anything bulky or heavy. However, no errundonées for me this year, since I raced last Sunday and am supposed to be taking it easy.  (Also, I got lazy.)

Anyhow, this year’s challenge runs from March 20 to 31. It being a contest, there are rules. The most basic rules say that the errands need to fit into one of 8 categories, and you need to do 12 of them (with a minimum distance of 30 miles).

Here’s how I did:

Type Date Ride/ Run


Personal Care  3/21/17  Ride #5 Voice Therapist
Personal Care #2  3/21/17  Ride #7 Dentist
Personal Business  3/21/17  Ride  #6 Fort Myer Security Office
Personal Business #2  3/23/17  Ride  #11 Citibank
You carried WHAT on your bike (or back)?!
Arts and Entertainment  3/22/17 Ride  #9 Signature Theatre, Shirlington
Non-Store Errand 3/20/17 Ride #2 Arlington Library (return books)
Social Call  3/23/17  Ride  #12  Lunch at Kapnos with a friend
Work or Volunteering  3/23/17  Ride  #10  Accenture, Glebe Rd, Arlington
Store 3/20/17 Ride #3 Trader Joe’s
Store #2 3/20/17 Ride #4 Current Boutique (consignment)
Wild Card 3/20/17 Ride #1 Ice Skating at Kettler Ice Rink
Wild Card #2 3/22/17 Ride #8 Workout at TJ Rec Center

Oh yeah, the rules also say that you have to provide documentation for each errand. My documentation typically takes the form of a photo, so:

Ride #1: Ice Skating (3/20/17 – Wildcard)

Every Monday and Wednesday morning, the Kettler rink, practice rink of the Washington Nationals, holds a Senior Skate session — uncrowded ice for only $1!! I try to get there when the session starts, after the ice has just been zambonied, but didn’t quite make it this morning. (6 miles, combined with rides #2 and #3)


Ride #2: Library (3/20/17 – Non-Store Errand)

I still like to read books on paper. The way I handle most of these is to place a hold at the Arlington Library.  The books can be borrowed for three weeks, so two books were almost due:

  • The Amy Schumer was hysterical (with some serious points tucked away).
  • The Philip K Dick was yet another of his dystopian novels, some of whose basic premises are starting to seem less like science fiction.


Ride #3: Trader Joe’s (3/20/17 – Store)

I was out of town this weekend, so needed to stock up on some supplies.  Love to do it at Trader Joe’s, because

  • Their bicycle parking is usually adequate
  • I can get a free (mini) cup of coffee in the morning, and
  • They’re Trader Joe’s (they like it, and sometimes can even help you pack, when you don’t take a shopping bag and pack your stuff in a bicycle pannier)


Ride #4: Current Boutique (3/20/17 – Store #2)

Current Boutique is the nearest consignment store — in Clarendon. Alas, the clothes I brought this tie were not fashionable enough to be accepted — a trip to Goodwill is in their future.  However, the store did have a check for me, from the last haul. (4 miles)


Ride #5: Voice Therapist (3/21/17 – Personal Care)

For 20+ years I’ve had a medical ailment that is suddenly in the news — airway reflux. I don’t have all or (usually) most of the classic symptoms, but enough so that it was diagnosed by an ENT (otolaryngologist), who prescribed voice therapy, to see if the way I was speaking was contributing to my sore throat. Today was my introduction to the therapist. She has offices both in the burbs and in downtown DC, so I went to the one near the White House. (10 miles, combined with ride #6)


And while I was downtown I stopped for an excellent breakfast at the Breadline. The Breadline has bittersweet memories:  the first time I ate there was on a cherry blossoms ride led by Lynn K.  And where are those cherry blossoms this year? (The coffee cup in the cup holder on my handlebars is from the Breadline, but they are low-key, and the cup is plain white, with no logo. )


Ride #6: Fort Myer  (3/21/17 – Personal Business)

The nicest (and safest) bicycle route for me to get into DC goes through  Fort Myer, an army base. All you used to need to bicycle through the base was a government ID.  However, a little over a year ago the policy was changed,  so now you need an visitor’s pass or Dor a DoD ID. My visitor’s pass was about to expire, so a visit to the security office on base was in order.


Ride #7: Dentist (3/21/17 – Personal Care #2)

Last week, I rescheduled the dentist appointment (just a cleaning) for today, since the weather forecast looked good for bicycling. It was a lovely ride, going past the Kennedy Center and over the Roosevelt Bridge in non-rush hour traffic.  I stopped off at Whole Foods on the way home, but I’ve already got two store visits … (Yes, I switched bicycles; the Terry was feeling neglected. (10 miles)


Ride #: Three Stores (3/22/17)

But I’ve already visited two stores. And I checked the rules — “Wildcard” is for stuff that doesn’t fit into an existing category, not extra stuff you’ve done for a category you’ve already completed. Oh well. The errand was based on having to return things to REI; in fact, it turns out to have been EXACTLY ONE YEAR since I bought the Garmin that went back. Right around the corner from the REI in Bailey’s Crossroads are a Vitamin Shoppe and a World Market. All for an 7-ish mile round trip.


Ride #8: TJ Rec Center (3/22/17 – Wildcard #2)

Weight- and strength-training sessions have been few and far between since I got sick (see Voice Therapist, above) and my workout partner is recovering from soldier surgery. However, this afternoon I figured it would only be a slight detour (2 extra miles and an hour) to squeeze in a visit to Thomas Jefferson Recreation Center on my way to dinner and a show.  Of course, that meant I had to schlep my gym stuff with me to dinner and a show, but a small price to pay.

Ride #9: Signature Theatre (3/22/17 – Arts)

The show in my yearly subscription to the Signature was Midwestern Gothic, having a world premiere.  Go if you’d like a “thriller musical” with unsavory characters. I got to try out my new light (the old one was stolen off the bicycle when it was parked in downtown DC about a week ago) on the way home. (7 miles, includes the 2 extra for stopping at the gym)


Ride #10: Accenture (3/23/17 – Work)

Mostly I work from home, but today I needed to stop by the office. One of the best perks is secure, covered parking — you have to have permission to get into the parking garage and into the bicycle cage added to your ID card.


Ride #11: Citibank (3/23/17 – Personal Business)

I got a snail-mail message telling me I had an account about to go inactive (!!), so I figured I’d head over to a Citibank office, rather than trying to figure out what was going on over the phone.  Alas, it was just a CD (!!), not some long-lost pot o’gold.  I’m good for another 5 years.


After Citibank and before lunch, I stopped off at the library, to pick up a book I had placed on hold, and that had just become available. But I already went to the library once this week. Besides:

Ride #12: Kapnos Cafe (3/23/17 – Social Call)

Met a friend at Kapnos Taverna for lunch.  The bad news: There’s a shortage of bike parking places (so what else is new?), so she took the one bike rack and I got a “No Parking” sign. The good news: It’s Northern Virginia Restaurant Week, so I had a fantastic Greek lunch for a moderate price. With an excellent waiter.

February 25, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

India, February 2017 – Getting the News

I’ve traveled abroad a lot, starting in graduate school, continuing through several jobs.  In the early years, pre-internet, one of the most troubling aspects of these trips was satisfying my obsession with reading the NY Times.  I remember one trip ( both pre-internet and pre-credit card), when I spent the summer in Italy and France and was starting a year’s job in France.  I had miscalculated the date I would get my first paycheck (whoever heard of getting paid once a month?), so was running short of cash. I needed to live by a strict budget: the budget included the daily issue of the International Herald Tribune and skimped on coffee.

Fast forward to now. I still have the NY Times obsession – but tempered: I read the weekday papers online, but prefer Sunday’s on paper, so I can schlep it around easily (and messily) and do the crossword puzzle on paper. I also like to read local newspapers, when I can read the local language.  Both of these desires can be satisfied in Chennai India. I’ve got my computer and phone, so the Times online is easy to come by. However, the International edition (in newsprint) is nowhere to be found.  So, I was delighted when I picked up one of the local papers available in English, the Deccan Chronicle, and found the Times crossword puzzle.  I don’t think it was Saturday’s or even Friday’s (it was too easy), but still.

The Deccan Chronicle is undoubtedly not the paper of record of India; that’s the Hindu , which I’ve been reading, courtesy of the hotel, all week.  The articles include local and international coverage, most of which seems to have been written by Indians.  (Differences in Indian vs. American English become pretty obvious.) The Deccan Chronicle on the other hand, had lots of articles supplied by press services, with more American language. And those, unfortunately, included today’s front page article with the headline: “Indian techie shot dead in Kansas hate crime“. There was also a fascinating OpEd article  about US politics.  Hmm, maybe I’ll have to start reading the Deccan Chronicle online when I get back home.

January 11, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

Leadership Training

Years ago, I wanted to be able to lead bicycle trips (day and weekend) for the Five Boro Bicycle Club.  They offered a training course for potential leaders. I passed the course and led some rides. Soon after, I became the leadership coordinator for the club and taught the course for several years.

Since this was a course in leading bicycle trips for a particular club, it had several sections that were relevant either to just that club (good places to meet and ride in and around NYC) or to bicycling (how to fix flat tires and other mechanical difficulties; how to ride safely.)  However, it also had sections that were more general — how to shop, cook, and organize meals for a group of people; how to lead that group of people.

The topic that has stuck with me the most (over all these years) was “How to make decisions that affect a group”.  Since this was a bicycling course, the examples given pertained to a bicycle ride.  However, I’ve used the principles I learned  throughout different aspects of my life (especially my work) since then.

The crux of the topic is that the group leader has available (at least) three ways to make a decision for the group. You have to determine which technique to apply in which circumstances.


  • Example – Should we stay an extra day here (because of the weather/because it’s so attractive) and miss another attraction/route?
  • Principle – Group buy-in is critical, as the group will have to live with this decision for a while.


  • Example – Wow! Restaurants! Should we have Italian or Chinese for dinner? Majority wins. Or maybe we could even (temporarily) split the group.
  • Principle – A non-critical decision with no long-lasting effects.


  • Example – Rider1 just had an accident and is lying in the middle of the road.
    Rider2: Stand here, to divert traffic.
    Rider3: Call 911 to report the accident. (At least now I probably don’t have to preface this with “Find a phone, so you can …”)
    Rider4: Take charge of the rest of the group and lead them to our destination for the evening.
    Rider5:  Call the hotel/camping area/hostel and tell them we may be a little late.
  • Principle – Very high stakes and immediate, definitive action(s) required.


November 22, 2016 / bikesbytesbites

Belated Report – Chennai India

How I Got There

Business Trip! Accenture’s India Development Center (IDC) is in Chennai, in southern India (the province of Tamil Nadu). The people at the IDC actually wrote most of the code in the project I’ve been helping plan.  Time to get them involved in figuring out what’s going to break when we upgrade the software infrastructure.  That led to a week-long trip — well, five work days, plus two more days of travel.

The Hotel

A Hilton is a Hilton, right? Well, kind of. Unless it’s in India (or probably many other countries in the world), which require a TSA-style package- and body-check for anybody to get into the hotel. Disturbing at first, but you get used to it.

You know it’s a hotel that caters to international travelers when all the electric plugs are universal — they’ll take any kind of national standard of electric plug.  No more having to look for the right converter plug. That’s good, because I couldn’t find my old US-to-India plug.

The first day there (I arrived Sunday at 3 AM, after having left Friday at 10:30 PM; love that International Dateline) I went for a swim. The rooftop pool is absolutely gorgeous.


Getting to the Office


Yes, there is traffic in India. Occasionally, the flow of cars was interrupted by a cow on the highway, but, more generally, the flow of cars was simply slowed by the flow of more cars … and motorcycles … and scooters.  I wouldn’t try to drive in India. The company had followed standard practice, and hired a car and driver to drive me and my co-worker on our daily commute between the hotel and the office.

The hotel dining room overlooked the National Highway that went through Chennai (and a newish metro platform). A cow had just wandered out of the frame when I snapped this photo, but what else is strange about this multi-lane highway?  There are no lane markings.  It actually wouldn’t make that much difference — lane markings are merely suggestions anyhow; why fit only one car per lane if three cars will fit across two lanes, maybe with an additional motorcycle or scooter thrown in.


The Office

Some aspects of the office were similar to tech offices in the US and/or Silicon Valley: An open floor plan (yech); buses to ferry people out to the office from the city; a huge complex; people speaking English, but with various accents and various degrees of success.

Some aspects of the office were entirely different: No coffee or eating allowed at the desks! (But excellent coffee in the snack areas and cafeteria.) No vending machines!  Men wore “western dress”, but all of the women were in “traditional dress” — salwar kameez, not saris.  (This was different than other offices I’d been in, in other areas of India. I was told that Southern India might be a bit more conservative than the tech centers in Gurgaon.)

The office day was governed partly by traffic. It took about an hour to travel the 20 kms there (some on the highway) if we left the hotel a little before 9. It took about the same time to get home if we left the office around 5:30. The buses left at 6:30.

I think it was a productive trip. After knowing the people in India only via IMs and emails, it was good to meet them. Also to figure out which names belonged to women and which to men. People really should put pictures in their corporate accounts. Especially when a language barrier prevents you from recognizing a typical female or male name.

The Day Off

I (stupidly) scheduled only one extra day in Chennai when I wasn’t working. It was the Saturday at the end of my stay. The company agreed to pay my driver for the extra day. It was up to me to decide how to spend the day — I didn’t want to spend it in the car, but wanted to take advantage of having the car.

I spent the morning and early afternoon in Mahabalipuram . It was worth the 50-km drive. It is the site of an ancient (7th century!) Dravidian city, with many temples and sculptures maintained by the Archeological Survey of India. The temples and sculptures are monolithic — that is, carved from a huge block of stone. The accomplishment — especially considering 7th century technology — is phenomenal.



Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of Chennai. It needs a return trip. I’d also like to get to Pondicherry, a city settled by the French (the French?) and still showing some French influence — about 100 miles south of Chennai.  Oh well, another work trip is tentatively scheduled.

September 6, 2016 / bikesbytesbites

Weekend in Luray (with a Triathlon)


I was originally signed up for the Luray Olympic Triathlon, happening on Saturday, . August 20. However, on reflection (on my lack of training, mostly), I decided it would be better for me to do the Sprint distance, happening on Sunday, August 21. I switched about two weeks before the event; it was easy, with  a $10 change fee.


I already had my hotel reservation starting Friday night, so I drove out on Friday afternoon. That gave me a chance to do some work (sigh. have computer and wifi will travel), ride over to Lake Arrowhead (very convenient from the Days Inn, Luray), attend the orientation meeting, go for a brief swim, have dinner with my triathlon team,  Team Z, and get back to the hotel at a reasonable hour.


Saturday I planned to go for a short bike ride and to explore downtown Luray (before and after going out to Lake Arrowhead to cheer). My bike route happened to overlap with some of the triathlon’s bike course, so I got a preview of how hilly the course was going to be.  I was on the course after the racers had completed the bike, but the run was still going on. That afternoon, I headed back into town, to pick up my packet for Sunday’s race and to continue exploring downtown Luray. Highlights: a series of murals commemorating a 1950’s car dealership;


the Outdoor Outfitters where packet pick-up was; Hawksbill Bicycles, where the store owner had a classic (late 60’s-early 70’s) Raleigh bicycle for sale in the window; the old railroad station, converted into a museum and the town tourist office;


the farmers’ market; the Hawksbill bike/ped trail along a stream through the center of town. Then early-to-bed, early-to-rise for my race the next day.

Luray Sprint Triathlon

Lessons Learned

  • My swimming-in-a-straight-line is getting better, but still needs some work.
  •  In general, the speed of my swimming needs some work.
  • I thought that maybe this was going to be my first triathlon wearing a wet suit, but the water was too warm.  (I was told it usually is too warm.)  Just as well, because my transition times could use some improvement — I can’t imagine how much more I would have to add to T1 to get out of a wet suit.
  • Setup at the transitions was smoother than it had been previously, so maybe I am learning something. Everything was organized well, and there wasn’t anything that I discovered that I had forgotten at the very moment I needed it.
  • I biked in my Shimano sandals, a mistake.  They are cooler on long summer tours, but gave no appreciable benefit in this triathlon.  Plus, it meant I had to pull on socks for the run on top of my sweaty feet instead of on top of my wet feet. Next time, my regular bicycle shoes, and the socks go on after the swim.
  • I participated without my triathlon watch which bit the dust a while back.  (Fitbit was also non-operational — bit the dust last week.) Garmin tri watches are on sale at REI this week — time to get a replacement. Not the fitbit — that’s history. (Lousy support and lousy functionality. And this is the third one that broke. Since the warranty is based on when I purchased the first one, no replacement is available, except with a 25% discount. NFW. )
  • The bike course was challenging but doable.  The most major hill was at the end of the ride. Or was it at the end of the lollipop in the middle of the ride? Which means I would have to do it twice in the Olympic distance.
  • Ditto the run course. For the first time in a race, I wore my running Camelbak, not full so it didn’t slosh around, but much more convenient than either carrying a water bottle  or trying to sip out of cups at the aid stations.  So, add another 10 seconds to T2, to get the Camelbak on…  Mostly a nicely shaded course, with some sunny spots.  Some hills I walked …


Second in my age group! Collected a glass and a trophy/plaque/whatever the appropriate word is (thanks Anne & David for bringing this home; I wasn’t aware I was going to get a trophy in addition to the inscribed glass.) The woman ahead of me had a MUCH faster swim … also slightly faster in every thing else, but the swim was the biggest difference.

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Sunday Night and Monday

My hotel reservation extended through Monday morning. I wasn’t surprised by how much the hotel cleared out on Sunday afternoon. But I was a little surprised that there seemed to be bunches of people staying there Sunday night. Maybe to visit the local Wrangler wholesale and supply store?  (I passed it on one of my bike rides; it’s huge.)  Or to visit the Page County Fair, happening that week?

The highlight of the evening was seeing a movie at the Page Theatre, a grand old cinema downtown that has been plexed unmercifully. The Page is taking up a collection — they need to digitize their projectors, or else, pretty soon, they won’t be able to display any movies.  Maybe a side-effect of their film projection system was that all I saw was the movie — no ads or coming attractions; those must be available only in digital.

I am not fond of driving. I had another weekend away planned for the weekend after Luray, this one bicycling with friends in Winchester (at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley). Rather than drive back to town on Sunday (2 hours) then drive back out to Winchester the following Friday (an hour and a half), I found an AirBnB in Winchester. On Monday morning, I took the scenic route (US 340) from Luray to WInchester (1 hour).  I resisted the urge to stop in Front Royal, to bicycle on Skyline Drive. Next trip.


I loved Luray and the Luray triathlon. I would seriously consider doing the International next year, provided I can get/keep my training on track.  Next up – the International at Miami Man. They don’t offer a Sprint distance, so it’s either put up or shut up.  I’m still looking for a (local, preferably)  triathlon where I can wear the wet suit — I assume that’s not gonna happen at Miami, either.

August 15, 2016 / bikesbytesbites

Catching up on Cheap Eats

In my quest to visit all 100 restaurants on the Washingtonian’s Cheap Eats list, I usually post a report on each restaurant as I visit.  Alas, I’m behind — three restaurants to report on, each with a different rating.

Cheap Eats #83 – London Curry House – Alexandria (Cameron Station). Indian.

  • Summary: Some of the best Indian food I’ve had, including some dishes I hadn’t seen anywhere else,  in a lovely atmosphere.
  • Rating: A great discovery, worth a return visit. In fact, I’ve already been back.
  • Bike Ride: Did this originally as a club ride, so scouted a fantastic and scenic ride, along some portions of the Holmes Run Trail

Cheap Eats #84 – Taqueria el Mexicano – Hyattsville. Mexican (duh).

  • Summary: Maybe worth the trip if you adore Chicken Mole and other not-so-easy-to-find Mexican specialties.  But the two servers are harried (and English-challenged), and the Mexican music (instrumentals; not bad, actually) is playing a little too loudly.  Storefront.
  • Rating: “I’ll try anything once.”
  • Bike Ride: Actually just rode from Fort Totten to the restaurant then to Silver Spring. Not many alternatives I could find to sections on Riggs Rd (without the bike lane) and University Blvd (used the service road and parking lots, where they exist).

Cheap Eats #85 – Crisp Chicken & Bar- Hyattsville. Mexican (duh).

  • Summary: Interesting place. OK burger (was warned that the chicken was quite spicy), with great trimmings. Good sides. Open only for dinner; probably more of a bar than a restaurant.
  • Rating: Worth trying again, if I’m in the neighborhood and timing is right. But there’s so much else in the neighborhood.
  • Bike Ride: .A fascinating ride through Shaw and Bloomingdale — those neighborhoods change every time I pass through.