Chilly Hilly 2015

28 02 2015

Patrick and I were speeding downhill on Fletcher Bay Road when I saw it: The Mile 19 shortcut sign. Turn right on Lynwood Center Road and you stay on the main Chilly Hilly route, which gives you 33 miles of biking around Bainbridge Island. Turn left and you cut off ten miles from the route. In other words, the left turn means you’re done. 

I decided to check in with Patrick. I was pulling him along on a tag-along bike. If you haven’t seen one, it’s basically a third wheel that clamps to the seatpost of my bike. Patrick gets his own seat and set of pedals, but I get to help with balance and speed. I called over my shoulder to him. “Patrick, how are you doing?”

“Good.” He sounded chipper.

“Do you think you can finish the ride?”


I turn right for the full Chilly Hilly route.

On the ferry

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Let’s Talk about Sweat

21 02 2015

Downton Abbey and air conditioning explain much of our attitudes about sweat. Farmer Drewe sweats because he works. Lord Grantham and Lady Mary don’t sweat unless they want to, as part of a quail hunt or steeplechase or something. And then when they’re done, their valet or ladies’ maid helps them change into their sixth outfit of the day. Aristocrats successfully confine sweat to recreation and keep it out of the everyday. That seems to be what everybody still aspires to. Air conditioned homes, cars, and office buildings make it easy for us to keep sweat in the gym.


Sweat? Never.

When I chose to start commuting by bike, I had to give up on that ideal. I know many commuters who wear special bike clothes on their ride and shower as soon as they get to work. I’m not one of those. I wear my normal clothes on my bike, and when I arrive at work I go straight to my desk and start working. I know that by being sweaty around other people, I’m violating one of the Crowley’s taboos, but this decision makes biking to work practical. If the thought of showering and changing every day keeps you from choosing an active commute, you should consider breaking this taboo, too. After all, we like to laugh at Downton Abbey’s outdated standards of clothing, class, and rigid propriety… why don’t we make its views on sweat equally outdated?

Taboo aside: I’ve learned a few things about staying comfortable when sweat is part of everyday life again.

  • I dress like it’s 10 degrees warmer than it actually is: I’m cold when I start biking, but I’m always warm when I’m done climbing Ravenna Boulevard. If I was warm when I started, I’d overheat on the way in to work. 
  • Two shirts are more comfortable than one. Merino t-shirts are awesome because they don’t feel clammy next to my skin, then a cotton shirt over that pulls moisture further away from my skin. 
  • I’ve fallen in love with biking caps. They soak up sweat; when I peel the cap off at the end of the ride, the sweat comes off with it. 
  • Bandannas are awesome. I always have one with me.

The single most important thing I’ve learned: Sweat dries. Try it… you’ll see.

Spring in February

18 02 2015

Our good weather has lasted so long that it no longer feels exceptional. I expect cold mornings, warm afternoons, sunshine, and blossoms everywhere. And we get a long weekend in the middle of this weather! We couldn’t be luckier.

Kite Hill in February

Patrick asked to ride his bike every day this weekend. He got his first scraped knee on Monday. Four-year-old Patrick would have been inconsolable until he’d gotten a Band-Aid, but six-year-old bike-crazy Patrick just got back on his bike and kept pedaling. Hills still challenge him — he walks his bike up and down anything steep — but he rides surprisingly well on the crowded Burke-Gilman trail. He zoomed along the three mile flat stretch from our house to Magnuson Park this weekend, his longest ride to date.

As we rode to Magnuson Park, he told me, “Biking is my favorite thing to do in the world. Sometimes it makes my legs tired, but it’s worth it.”

Bike Ride

A week in the life of Patrick

14 02 2015

Molly and I often tell with each other that all we want is Patrick to learn how to use his powers for good and not evil.

Excited Patrick

On the positive side: Once Patrick is motivated to do something it’s almost impossible to stop him. Recently, his motivation has been about biking (which obviously warms my heart). He really wants to ride his own bike to school, so last weekend we did a practice run to figure out: 1) Is it even possible (he’s only been riding for a few weeks) and 2) how long it will take. He’s a new enough biker that he can’t ride the quarter-mile downhill from our house to the bike trail — he can’t keep his speed under control. No problem! He happily walked his bike. Then, at the end of the flat bike ride along the Burke Gilman trail (where he did very well, by the way), he faced The Hill. It’s a short, steep uphill to his school, and Patrick really wanted to be able to ride the whole way. (After all, his brother can!)

Well, of course a 6-year-old who’s only been biking for a few weeks and who’s riding a bike that weighs half as much as he does can’t ride all the way up that steep hill. Patrick made it about a third of the way up, though, before he couldn’t go any further. He panted a little, looked at me, and then said, “I want to try again.” And he did: He walked his bike back down, turned around, and tried again. He got a little further in his fight with gravity, but gravity won. “I want to try again.” A little bit further the third time. 

The three attempts exhausted him. There was no 4th attempt, and his poor legs barely had enough gas to get him home after that. But I have to admit I’m really proud of his attitude and his effort. He’ll eventually conquer that hill.

On the other hand, we got contacted by the Lower School Director (think “School Principal”) yesterday. Patrick apparently got into a small wrestling match with a Kindergarten student at recess, and he’s going to be spending his recess with the principal one day next week as a consequence.

As I said: We need to teach him to use his powers for good, not evil.

Defy Bags “Vicious” Review

13 02 2015

I’m taking a break from the regular programming of “funny kid stories” to geek out about something most readers won’t care about: Bicycle commuting bags. If this isn’t your thing, come back later.

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It happens in 3rd grade…

6 02 2015

At Villa, classes start at 8:30, but they don’t let the kids into the building before 8:20. If you get there early — and many kids do, including mine — you wait on the patio until the bell rings. They’ve got an efficient system. Each grade has a separate area to wait in, and when the bell rings they have the kids enter one grade at a time to prevent a mad rush for the doors.

Wednesday morning, I volunteered in Patrick’s classroom. It was my first time this year, and I wasn’t sure when his teacher wanted me there. That was an easy problem to solve: Instead of just dropping the kids off, I’d walk them in so I could ask Patrick’s teacher what time I should return. We got there a few minutes before the bell, so I walked with the kids to wait on the patio.

And that’s when it happened.

As we walked, Alex asked me: “Dad, can you wait with Patrick instead?” I’m now officially an embarrassment to my children. (To be frank, I was wearing one of my more comfortable, practical, yet ridiculous-looking bike-to-work outfits. I can’t really blame Alex for not wanting to be seen next to the dude rockin’ the manpris.)



6 02 2015

I don’t want you to think that working at Facebook Seattle is all about dramatic sunsets. This is Seattle. Every now and then we have rainy, gray days. But I think even those days look cool. That’s the surest sign I really belong here.


Career Insights from 3rd Grade Soccer

4 02 2015

Alex’s team lost their soccer game again on Sunday, 7-2. That’s a pretty typical score. When he came off the field at the end of the game, red-faced and sweaty, I asked my usual question: “Did you have fun?”

“Yeah!” Big smile.

Victory Face

Alex’s playing has changed over the past few games. He’s decided he’s best at defense and asks the coach to play that position. There’s no more lollygagging around the field. He hustles to get in and make plays. He still needs to work on ball control and endurance… but playing defense on this team means he’s going to get lots of practice. He’s trying to get better.

I’ve never been a “sports person” and I tend to roll my eyes when sports people talk about all of the life lessons they’ve learned from the game. But maybe there’s something to it. I’ve been thinking a lot about something a younger former coworker of mine asked on Facebook recently. He said he wasn’t good at work politics and asked for book recommendations to improve. He said he was disillusioned with the concept of “meritocracy” at work. I didn’t like the jump from “there’s no meritocracy” to “I need to get good at playing politics to get ahead,” but I couldn’t find the words to explain my thinking. It turns out 3rd grade soccer captures my perspective well. Consider this:

  • If meritocracy exists anywhere, you’d expect to find it in sports. Individual performance is public and easy to measure. But even my limited experience “coaching” youth soccer showed me you look for more in your teammates than just raw ball handling skills. For example, on an earlier team, there was one kid who was great whenever he got his foot on the ball — quick and in-control, he could zoom past the other team’s players. But he was uncoachable. He didn’t listen to what he was supposed to be doing on the field. His contribution to the team fell way short of his raw talent.
  • Sports isn’t a pure meritocracy… but clearly we shouldn’t react by teaching Little Timmy how to kiss up to the coach to “get ahead.” Youth soccer isn’t about “getting ahead.” It’s about enjoying the game and improving. I view my career the same way. I want to enjoy what I’m doing and I want to keep getting better.
  • For some people, “winning” (or at least a reasonable shot at “winning”) is an important part of “enjoying the game.” There are youth soccer leagues in Seattle that are way more competitive than the one Alex is in, and I suspect “what do we have to do to win?” permeates the culture of those teams more than Alex’s. The NFL showed us this year that there are leagues where it’s acceptable to push or break the bounds of ethics in the name of winning. But this isn’t an important part of Alex’s personality. And that’s fine! Alex can choose the league to play in. We’ve got a league and team that matches what he values: Having fun and getting better. The same goes with work. There are professions, companies, and industries where politics, backstabbing, and other zero-sum “what do I have to do to get ahead?” questions permeate the culture. But just like a 3rd grader, you can choose which league to play in. If your company doesn’t support you and your values, choose another company.
When it’s my turn to come off the field and meet my maker, I don’t think he’ll ask, “Did you win?” Nope, “Did you have fun?” seems the right question for soccer, your career, and life.

January Remainders

1 02 2015

Welcome to February! Here are a few things that happened this past month that never got write-ups of their own.

  • If you live here, you’ve heard the complaints… where’s the snow in the mountains? Our plans to do cross-country skiing lessons with the kids this winter are now on permanent hold.
  • The flip side is the weather has been great for biking. Patrick’s gotten remarkably secure remarkably fast. In the fall he got to the “balancing at constant velocity” stage. If he ever needed to stop or turn, he fell. For months, we couldn’t interest him in practicing any more. But something changed in the past two weeks that made him more interested in riding again. Two weeks ago, he mastered stopping without falling, but turns were still a challenge. Last week, Molly took him to Bryant elementary, where he mastered turning and rode ten consecutive laps around the play field. Then yesterday, he finally got confident enough to start pedaling without a parent holding him. He ended yesterday with a 2 mile ride on the Burke Gilman trail.
  • In the fall of 2013, Patrick and I planted some bulbs in our back yard. They’re back!

Patrick's Flowers