My life

The gender of playing cards

One of my (mildly obsessive) hobbies is online Solitaire and related games FreeCell, Pyramid, Spider, and TriPeaks. Pyramid in particular has made me aware that I see the cards as having gender and even personality. This is not something I thought up consciously; I discovered it in the course of playing.

For Pyramid, you select two cards that add up to 13, and poof, they disappear. Ace and Queen, 2 and Jack, 3 and 10, etc. The King disappears on his own. The point is to clear the board, make all the cards go away.

The King is the jovial patriarch and the life of the party.

The Queen, of course, is female, and very imperious. The Ace that must go with her is male and very young, a child. I can’t quite tell if he’s her son, grandson, or servant, but he’s reluctant.

The Jack is a man about town, and the 2 is a younger male, possibly his nephew, learning from his uncle how to dress well and talk to the ladies.

10 is a father figure, 3 is his son. They have a good relationship and do dad-and-son stuff together.

9 is a female, bossy like the Queen. She intimidates the adolescent male 4, who must submit to her orders.

8 and 5 are young ladies and best friends, happy to hang out together.

7 is male, 6 is female. They are the Romeo and Juliet of playing cards. They rush into each other’s arms and vanish.

My life

Snobbery and bicycles

At some point in my life, I discovered that I was guilty of being a snob. My attitudes regarding bicycles will serve as a case in point.

When I was a kid in Colombia, our family bikes were a girl’s Schwinn and a man’s bike. The Schwinn had coaster brakes and was about the right size for most of us (24″ wheels). I rode it a lot, in spite of it being a girl’s bike, because the man’s bike was too big for me. It had hand brakes linked by rods rather than cables and looked a lot like this:

My best friend and his brothers received Monareta bikes for Christmas in 1969. Monark was Colombia’s premier bike manufacturer and made excellent road bikes. The Monareta was similar to what we now call a hybrid; it had the lines of a road bike but with a straight handlebar.

Shortly after that we spent a year in KC, and my dad bought my brother a cool 20″ Western Flyer with a banana seat and high handlebars. He bought me a 26″ three-speed, which was a great disappointment until I actually rode it and realized that what it lacked in coolness, it made up for in speed and comfort. We had a lot of adventures with those bikes.

In college is when my snobbishness began. I rode an old Schwinn ten-speed inherited from a brother-in-law, and found that I looked down my nose at two general categories of people. On the one side were the kind of people who turned their handlebars over to make them comfortable. They were dweebs.

On the other side were people who bought biking jerseys, biking shorts, gloves, cleats… The most annoying of all were those who rode recumbent bicycles. They were insufferable, like vegans or the guy who checks you in at the Apple store.

I didn’t actually know anyone with a recumbent bicycle; I just saw them at occasional events. The first one I became friends with many years later was a fellow blogger who was a brilliant artist and toured Europe with his wife by bicycle, which happened to be recumbent. A very nice guy, and far cooler than I was.

At the age of 60, I have again taken up bicycling as my main means of exercise. I find that, to mitigate the discomforts of biking at my age and weight, I have changed the handlebar style, used thick handlebar tape, padded the seat, and bought padded gloves. I am also looking into gel-lined shorts. In short, I have become an insufferable dweeb.

And now I look at pictures of recumbent bikes and note that the rider’s weight does not rest on his crotch and hands, but is distributed along his back. His hands are resting rather than supporting his weight, and he doesn’t really look any dweebier than I do. Hmm…

My life

My bike

Last fall, one of the nice mountain bikes I inherited from my dad got stolen. In order to ride with my stepson, it became necessary to fix up my old 1986 Raleigh Pursuit, which meant tires and inner tubes and oil and a better seat.

It rode pretty nice (once I figured out the correct way to install the seat, which is wrong in the picture) and I used it for a couple of months until one evening in early June, I stepped hard on the pedal to enter the street, and the chain snapped. My foot shot down as the pedal spun, and I rolled the bike to the right.

When I got up, my finger was bleeding from a bad cut on one side and a massive scrape on the other. Fortunately I was only four blocks from home and hadn’t hurt anything else.

The injury to my finger involved stitches and then a splint when it started to develop a Boutonniere deformity (finger gets pulled into a stair-step configuration), since ligaments were also damaged.

As a result, I decided I’d better upgrade the bike, so nothing else will give out on me. The handlebar was bent from the accident, and decades-old brakes and cables are not as reliable as new ones.

Since I never used the lower part of the traditional handlebars, I decided to go for bullhorns this time. I changed the cables and brakes and chain, put new gearshift levers up on the goose neck (they had been down on the frame, well below my knees), and replaced the old rat-trap pedals (which were always upside down since I took the rat-traps off long ago) with nice mountain-bike ones. Aldi was selling a gel seat-cover for cheap, and I have discovered that you can never have too much gel between you and a bike seat, so that’s on there too. The outcome is pretty cool for an old fat guy’s bike.

And of course the old bike helmet needed the padding replaced… and I discovered that one more downside of putting on 80 pounds in middle age is that your hands get to hurting really bad when you lean forward and support your weight on the handlebars. Gloves with gel pads in the palm are a necessity.

With all the money I put into replacements and upgrades, I could have bought a bike off the rack at Walmart, but it wouldn’t be as nice as this one is now, and it wouldn’t be designed for my height.

I also looked into a speedometer. The last one I bought cost under $10, but now everything is $50 or more. Fortunately, there are apps that are just as good, and will also map your ride.

My speed is pathetic (18.2 kph is just over 11 mph); probably some of you can ride faster uphill in the Rockies than I do on flat land in Florida, but I don’t care, I get 45-60 minutes of exercise a day touring the neighborhood and it’s doing me good.